Saturday 26 April 2014

How I came to love my Asli kids...

I remembered the first day I entered their class. They were a bunch of kids, passive, timid, and very quiet. I wasn't quite sure whether they even understood me albeit me speaking in very simple, 'baku' Malay... I was being enthusiastic, while not really getting much response from them.... At the back of my mind, I kept hearing voices from my fellow colleagues saying, 'mereka senang nak ajar, suka salin nota dan tidak bising.'

Suddenly, a big group of Malay boys walked past the class, playing truant as usual. Clothes untucked, loud and disrespectful... these boys were shouting 'babi', 'kotor', 'balik hutan lah' etc and I could see the pained faces of my kids. Immediately, I stood out of the class, called them out for being 'kurang ajar', and telling them that these kids who chose to be in the class instead of 'derak' like them have higher chances of succeeding. "At least", I told them, "these kids have the will to learn while you are out wasting your time and your life, doing stupid things while thinking too highly of yourself."

Right after that, I went back to the class and told the Asli kids, not to be affected by the hurtful words from the boys, and don't bother stooping down to their level. They suddenly became rowdy and started telling me how often they were teased, bullied, and even pushed around by those students.

That was exactly when, I felt the need to reassure them to be proud of their roots. I started telling them that "I respect them", which led to them looking at me in disbelief.

I said, I could not imagine having to leave my home as young as 13 (or even younger), go somewhere hours away, being put into hostel life, forced to eat food I am not accustomed to, being asked to study in languages I am not accustomed to then labeled as academically weak because I could not perform well when everything I learn is in a foreign language, being frowned upon for being different, being misrepresented and misunderstood, and not having the luxury of confiding in my own family whenever I need to.

I told them that they are brave. And despite all odds, they have a beautiful culture and background, which are the essence of who they are. Hence I started aligning my lessons with them, with a stronger focus on their Temiar heritage.

We had so much laughter in the class and they excitedly described to me how they prepare their yam balig (pronounced as nyam balik) and tried to convince me that roasted bats are yummy lol.

For one of my lessons with them, we created lil handbooks of these. 

Much thanks to the generous supply of stationery I now have, the students had real fun creating their lil books. Even though it was already their recess time, they refused to go to the canteen and asked whether I could stay a lil longer while they try to make their books prettier. How could I say no to that?

And so I sat down, and those who had already finished theirs came crowding around me, asking me questions, telling me stuff, while taking turns to stroke my hair (seriously, they been telling me that they love my hair lol). Then one girl asked whether I like Kpop, which I answered that I know quite a bit about it... Then she proceeded telling me that I look like 'onji' from 'epen'... which totally made me go 'what?'... I later figured out she meant Eunji from Apink lol, and apparently they all chimed in and said I look like her... I told them I think that celebrity is quite young while I am old. They, such angels, told me I am young too because I am only 21. SO SO SO FREAKING HAPPY OKAY. lol

How not to love them?

PS. They want to teach me how to dance Sewang too
PSS. The boys actually help me to rearrange my 'Magic Box' every time after they used the stationery

Creating readers with students

When I realised majority of my students can't read let alone understand simple vocabulary like 'likes', 'care', and even 'old', I knew I had to get them to read Peter and Jane, a book series that accompanied me since young, and helped me to read and gain common vocab. Problem is, I do not have the books with me and definitely not in the quantity that I need...

So, inspired by some ideas from fellow friends, I got them to create simple Peter and Jane 8-page books. Using plain papers, I cut them into 8 rectangular pieces each, stapled together with coloured front and back, making simple booklets...

After distributing a booklet each to the kids, I started with guiding them to design their cover page, followed by Page 1. I had to do one page at a time with them because some can't even write properly and were copying with wrong spelling. But of course, there are also those who put in extra effort to create the best book they can.

Believe it or not, it actually took 3 periods for the students to complete their books (when I took less than 10 minutes to create a sample *with drawings included *). But you could see they are proud of their work. 

Once I was certain everyone has a complete book, I started drilling them on reading. It was hard at first because despite all the drilling, some are still reading 'likes' as 'lee kers' and 'he' as 'her'. Talk about first language influence.

Having said so, the kids impressed me with their effort to read the book with correct pronunciation. I carried out band 1 reading test, using the booklet, and they were practising hard for it. It was chaotic because while one is reading for me, many others were shouting out the pronunciation of the words to help their friend! Some wouldn't stop yelling, some were reading at the top of their voices and some kept coming to me to check their pronunciation, all while I was trying to test them individually! On a positive note, they were reading!

These kids were so proud when they passed band 1 lol. Some even asked me whether they can read again though they had passed. Some were simply showing off by yelling 'This is Peter. He is a boy. He is ten years old.' to teachers or students passing by lol.

Definitely chaotic.

But amazingly satisfying.

Sunday 20 April 2014

Who dare say teaching is easy???

I get really emotional and annoyed when someone tries to downplay the role of a teacher... At the back of my head I would be yelling 'COME, I GIVE YOU MY CLASS. JUST TEACH FOR TWO PERIODS THEN YOU TALK.' lol.

Though I have been updating rather frequently on Facebook about my school adventures and misadventures, I realised I have not penned them down here on this blog. Then again, I too feel like I'm repeating myself which kinda demotivates me from writing lol.

Just to recap, I have been given three different levels to teach - Form 2, 3 and 5... It's a lil unusual (teachers are mostly given only 2 different form levels) because I came in late March, so I was practically given all the classes with least expectation to succeed (the important classes would have been allocated permanent teachers while my classes went through several replacement teachers whose main job were to 'babysit' them). Needless to say, I have my doubts when I saw my time table... Not only I would be teaching PBS classes for the first time, I am teaching all the 'back classes', which subsequently means 'problematic students' with very very very few passes in English.

One of my five classes was possibly labeled as the worst class in the whole school.
Teachers would complain and asked to be removed from teaching that class.
Teachers would warn me about the students from that class.
Many serious disciplinary cases in the school are related to the students from that class.

Yup, and I am just teaching them English, a subject they have no interest in, a subject no one passed.
No biggie.

First week itself, I walked out from that class. In fact, this was what I wrote on my facebook.

After much reflection, I was determined not to give up easily, though I contemplated asking to be removed from this class and take on another class...

I would be lying if I said it doesn't feel good to be receiving so much kind words and encouragement. But to be perfectly honest, I wasn't exactly posting stories of how I deal with students or my personal reflection to 'fish' for compliments or acknowledgement. In fact, I always feel that social media is over-saturated with negativity, gossips, ads, and more often than not, teachers are often misrepresented and misunderstood by the larger community (though there ARE a lot of rotten apples in the bunch). You can say that I want to have my voice heard, to spread some hope, to encourage my fellow teaching friends not to give up, to state that 'Hey, I know how it feels. I am on that same bloody boat. Let's keep on working so that we won't drown', and most importantly, to glorify God.

The only reason why I work hard in school was not to seek for approval from my 'bosses' or colleagues, it was mainly to please God, to be a living testimony for Him, especially when I am the ONLY Christian teacher.

Anyhow, here are some other teaching stuff that I spontaneously came out with or planned, for my lessons. Somehow my lessons are much better when the ideas come minutes before the class starts lol. I for one am someone who really does not follow my Rancangan Pengajaran Harian :p

Took advantage of the free Manila Cards from the school storage to make posters for What Does The Fox Say!

I wanted to teach them 'feelings' so I used a 20 cent coin to draw circles, had the tasksheet photocopied and went through each of the emotions with my Asli kids. I love teaching them because although they are weak, they have the best learning attitude and it's a nice class size of 20 students. After all the drilling and some games, I told them I would test them with a spelling test on the next day, in which they exclaimed in utter horror. To 'bribe' them, I said those who scored all 9 correct, I will give them lollies from nz 

And so the spelling test was given.

.... I gave out 26 lollies (2 lollies each). So freaking proud of them.

Also, I used various brain games to teach my students simple vocabulary.

Made simple readers with students, and hopefully be able to get them to read the books to their family members.

Started a mobile library, fondly called by me as "Library in a box" lol


and the most recent project...

Trying to teach English while acknowledging students' first language as Bahasa Temiar, inculcating pride in one own's culture among the Asli kids :)

Last but not least, I posted this on Facebook...
 Within seconds, I had friends messaging me through various means, offering help and pledges and all form of contributions!!!

As I am still waiting for some exciting packages to arrive... here are some stuff that I have managed to gather for my Asli kids ~~~


I have sets of stationery for the kids, communal stationery for language arts and creative activities, and I know there are MORE coming!

So to all of you , those super kind-hearted ones,
I AM REALLY GRATEFUL that you are willing to partner with me, in the journey of educating the students with needs.

In fact, with the extra stationery, I plan to bless my other classes, including 2A4, as I believe, they too deserve the opportunity to learn the best they could.

Thank you.

There will never be enough 'thank yous'.

You guys really made my day!

Thursday 17 April 2014

Marriage 漏满地#7 - Gigolo

Him: I have become a gigolo.

Me: Do they pay you well?

Him: Yeaaaaaa... They pay me $2.95.

Me: Whaaaaat? What can they get with $2.95? I want some of the action la! I give you 3 dollars and you can keep the change!

Him: NO!

Me: WHY????

Him: Give me $2.96 and we have a deal!

Me: Hahahahahahahaha... You are not very smart hah!

Him: That's why I'm a gigolo.

Monday 7 April 2014

New Chapter in an Old Place

Faces of disbelief and shock were seen when I appeared in school, on the 30th of April 2014.

I had so many colleagues coming to me asking whether I was back to visit or stay. They expressed their concern for me, some comforted me, while most of them welcomed me back with open arms - something I was extremely thankful for.

The first week was probably one of the craziest ride. Since I knew I was going to return to Gua Musang, I was certain that I wanted to try new things this year and make major changes - including looking for a new accommodation. So while I was still in New Zealand, I was in contact with my pastors here in GM and with their help, they contacted Aunty Kim who found me several options to choose from. However, there was some misunderstanding and the option that I felt the most comfortable with turned out to be a room on top of a shop lot instead of 'a room within a double-storey house.' Even so, we decided to have a look at it...

The stairway leading up to the room had a grill door. Once you opened up the wooden door upstairs, you will see this...

On the right, there's the toilet / washroom

which I later found out that the lights and showers were not working... And the toilet bowl must have been clogged as every morning, a horrible stench would come up from the sewage... @_@

I actually had to shower the first night with the door open as there was no light. The landlady after been informed the next day, immediately got the lights repaired and replaced.

This place also comes with a small pantry

Picture above is actually taken after I did a major clean up of the place. Imagine the place cramped with bags after bags of rotten stuff, lizard's poo everywhere, rusty kitchen utensils, and slimy substances....

Then, there's the room...

I couldn't even capture all the details of the room due to the constraint of space... but basically it has a mahjong table filled with weird stuff in the chips drawers, posters, cutouts, a bed, a broken couch, a massage bed, an old air-cond that constantly scares me with it's jumpiness when switched on, especially when there were sparks lol, a fan that couldn't turn sideways and fixed to be in place with strings, a chair with wheels and torn leather, bags and bags of weird stuff hidden in all corners of the room, acupuncture doll etc etc

When I saw the place, I was actually okay with it as I am someone with very low expectations lol. I saw there was an air-cond, water heater, and thought 'hey, this place could work!' So without wanting my parents to worry about my accommodation, I was quite happy to settle in this place, and spent the rest of the day cleaning up as much as I could after my parents left.

That was when things kinda went a lil downhill......

When I was done with the room cleaning, I just wanted to shower... and guess what... I found out that the toilet light was out.

I still managed to give myself a quick wash, before realising that there was no water after 8pm...

I was still able to be thankful that I had kept my two pails filled with water. Then I realised that the wooden door could not be closed, let alone locked T_______T

So I basically spent my whole night praying for protection and sleeping with uneasiness as the door kept flinging open (towards outside) as the wind was rather strong that night.

Slowly, the problems of the place kept adding up... I found a hole in the corner of the ceiling where lizardsssssssssss kept going in and out from; there was no water from 7pm ish till 1-2am everyday; the stench from the toilet was overpowering; due to no basins, I had to wash dishes and whatnot in the smelly toilet; the air-cond can only function possibly 1 out of 5 times; I found used instant noodle cups outside on the stairway leading to my room (there were prople lepaking right outside of my living quarters)... and yet, I was still trying hard to hold on and be strong.....


That fateful night.

I was in deep sleep, completely knocked out from school. Suddenly, I heard ruffling noises. Thinking it was possibly from outside since I lived on top of a shop lot, I ignored the noises. Next thing I know, water was dripping on my face waking me up!!!

Startled, I switched on the light only to find my ceiling was LEAKING!

Immediately I jumped up, saw my extension cables and electrical stuff were all super near to the wet patches, and moved them quickly to dry places!!!!! There and then, I shocked myself with a total breakdown.

I cried, and cried, and cried.

Though it was rather late, I was feeling so alone and scared, I picked up the phone and called my dad.

Still crying uncontrollably, I told him what happened. I knew I must have given him a shock as well. He stayed up to check on me, advised me, while I did as much damage control as I could...

Not sure whether you can see, but basically the leakage spreads....and that was in the bedroom. Hence I could not use a pail to contain the drippings, so I gathered as many towels as i could (including the ones left by the old tenant) and spread them out all over the affected parts ....

By the time I fell asleep, it was way past 3am... and needless to say, I woke up with super swollen eyes...

Be scared.


If not for that whole incident with the leaking ceilings, I might not have made the decision to change accommodation and stop lying to myself that I am fine with that living condition.

I was quite frustrated because I did spend three days to clean up the place and made it 'livable'... But definitely, it wasn't the place for me long-term wise...

Just to show you some little stuff here and there that I included in that room of mine...

So much cleaning, scrubbing, throwing, moving and decorating to make the room pleasant to me... So sad that I had to leave, even at the risk of losing the 300 bucks that I had paid.... It was just a decision that has to be made.

Thankfully, when I was in nomadic mode, Nadia and Saqinah both offered their places to me...
I went with Nadia for the first night of homelessness... and was pleasantly greeted with a bed with new clean sheets, and scented candle burned in the room :')

Interestingly, that same day (it was freaking April Fool lols), I received missed calls from an unknown number and a text message from SL, a TESL teacher just posted into Gua Musang! Immediately I called back after my classes and found out that she was coming to GM with her dad from Kota Bahru, and will be looking for accommodation.... Whatever that happened after that was too much and too heavy to be narrated in detail, so to cut the story short, after a whole day of phone calls and arrangements, SL became my new housemate.

How we found this current house is like a whole miracle on its own too. She told me she had a few options in Taman Tropika for us to look at. Leaving the topic at that, I went to school and met a close colleague who lives in Taman Tropika. So we chatted and I told her my situation and our interest in looking for a new place. She then told me she knows someone who has a nice house to sell, but will ask whether that someone will be willing to rent the place to us. While on the phone, that someone (let's call her K) said that someone else is also asking her about her place, and that someone else turned out to be SL lol! How small is the world that SL was posted to K's school, and became colleagues, were talking about the house when my colleague called her up!

K has been a really great landlady. She and her husband fixed things up for us in the house, and were really nice and flexible in many areas. We love this new place, definitely a lot more than my old place (SL could not stand that place after only one night of bunking with me hahahahaha), and we have been making ourselves feel at home by adding essentials and also purchasing a fridge! hehehe

Here's a look at our new humble abode~

Fan with remote control and air-conditioning in the living room!

Our kitchen

We turned the 3rd room (that's much smaller) into our so-called 'walk-in closet' lol. 

The bathroom

The toilet

The living room (that came with the couch and streamxy yo)

and lastly,
my cosy lil space...

The greatest lesson I learned from that past week of drama was that - God protects and provides.

With the incident of ceiling leakage, I felt like I was being woken up by God, or His angels, just in time before the water gets to the electrical stuff.

And when I took that huge step of faith, to move out from those walls (a place where I knew of the problems yet stubbornly tried to held on to), stepped into the uncertainty of homelessness, God arranged for me to meet SL, to move into this new place that could provide me the shelter and comfort throughout this tough time of separating from my husband by being back in Gua Musang.

At my most vulnerable moments, when I was unafraid to show my Lord how weak and scared I was, He delivered me, and surrounded me with love and care in form of very good friends here in GM, very concerned parents and a very supportive husband.

Stepping into the unknown, could be a scary thing. But I learned, if God is for us, who can be against us.

Right now, the song that came to my mind is..

"I walk, by faith,
each step, I take,
to live, by faith,
I put my trust in You." 

A new day, a new challenge.
Lord, refresh me with your grace, make me anew, each waking moment.