Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Two Weeks In

"Taking steps is easy, standing still is hard," You've Got Time by Regina Spektor.

So I've been in school for a little more than two weeks now. I have finally assumed the role of Mr Anwar, the primary school teacher. Mixed feelings, man. Mixed feelings.

During my four month break, I took on a corporate-ish nine-to-five (six, actually) job and entered a world that was totally new to me, and I grew to like it. I handled social media, mostly, but I was also involved in diplomacy and got to meet with a lot of great and passionate people who are out there to make a (positive) difference through their own means. They wanted to help people. They wanted to do good things. And I admire and respect them for that.

I also got to experience what a 9-5 kind of job entailed, for real, and, to me at least, it takes up a really huge chunk of your life. And if you find yourself in those kinds of jobs, doing something you dislike is very unhealthy. But that's a different story altogether.

Anyway, I'm in school now. Teaching Standard 3 students English. And I gotta tellya, it's been a roller coaster ride, and I don't expect it to stop anytime soon. The teachers in the school are great. They're friendly and are always open for a chat and a laugh. They're also very helpful, alhamdulillah. It's the students that I find challenging.

Over here, the proficiency is mostly low. Most of the students have very little exposure to the target language, and it wouldn't be a stretch to say that their English teachers are their only source of exposure to English. Keep in mind that I'm only talking about the students that I teach. To most of them, English isn't a second language, it's a foreign language, so I have to adjust my teaching as such. But, like I said, it's challenging. To get a room full of students to calm down and listen to you when they don't even understand you most of the time is challenging. To have to find a balance between exposing them to the language and being understood is challenging. To be interesting enough to them, to make lessons that are engaging enough to them, to help them when you need help yourself, is challenging.

There have been times in class that I just sit down, not knowing what to do, staring into blank space, knowing that the plan I made was rubbish and the students aren't learning anything. I smile to my fellow teachers while concealing the self-loathing I harbour within myself. I find myself wanting to sleep just so that I don't have to think about the task that awaits me in class. Me? A teacher? Please.

But there has also been times in class that I accidentally skipped in front of the students because I was so happy just being there. There have been times that I found myself revelling in the fact that a student who didn't know how to read "we" can, after a little help from me, sight read the word and even pronounce it correctly. I have found myself patting a student on the head for doing a good job because I couldn't hug them. Heck, even when the student asked me a question I already answered five times in the past minute, I can still find it within myself to smile about it.

Of course I am terrible. I've been teaching for, what, ten days? You're no superman, Anwar. You're weak, just like everybody else. And just like everybody else, you'll get better with each failure. Cry now. But persist. These kids need you to help them. And you do want to do that, right? Help people? Do that, and you'll be fine.

May peace be upon you.


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Fast Lines

"You've got more than money and sense, my friend. You've got heart." L. I. F. E. G. O. E. S. O. N. by Noah and the Whale.

So the other day my brother and I attended a rap-workshop that was held at the International Islamic University Malaysia because we wanted to. We came late, so we only got to participate in the "writing" and "presentation" part of it, so we basically missed the whole workshop part. But I personally enjoyed writing and performing the piece I wrote to the other participants (even though I screwed up on the first verse and had to re-do it). I never rapped in public before, and that was a good experience for me.

Immediately after that was over, there was a poetry-writing workshop in the same room. Because we had nothing better to do anyways, we decided to stick around. Truth be told, I'm not the best student when it comes to lecture-listening, so a lot of the first part just went past my head. 

But the we started the activity. She (the facilitator) explained how it was going to go. We were all required to write a piece of poetry, but she was to provide the first line. Interesting, I thought.

Before she gave us the line, she asked us (the participants) to close our eyes and be silent for one minute. She said this was called the "silence phase". Shortly afterwards, she gave us the line. "The fear of the truth".

I ended up writing this:

Even though I didn't really understand what I just wrote, I quite liked it, if I may be so bold to say.

Afterwards she asked for volunteers to read their piece aloud. Then we went through another round of that before we were dismissed.

I had a good time writing at that workshop. So much so that I wanted to do more of it ever since.

Therefore, two days ago I got on twitter and asked people to send me the first lines of poems they'd like me to write, utilizing the hashtag #fastlines. I didn't force anyone to do it. Just anybody who'd like a bad piece of poetry was welcome to drop me a line.

To my delight, quite a few have given me lines to make stanzas out of.

I've been having a good time doing it. If any of you would like one, just drop a line with the hashtag and maybe I'll write something for you one day. I say maybe because I might not have the time to respond immediately to your submission. And I might get bored of doing it too. Endless possibilities with anakpakman.

It'd be even better if you'd like to write stuff of your own. I'm sure a lot of you will be able to write way better verses than me, so try giving it a go. But only if you want to, of course. Takdak sapa paksa.

May peace be upon you.


Friday, December 20, 2013

Online Identity Questions

""No synthesizers, no satisfaction" Sirens by They Will Kill Us All.

So I got a questionnaire from some people the other day, and I thought I'd post it here. It's about online identity and whatnot. I had a good time answering it, and I hope you enjoy reading it as well.

1.       What do you want your online profile/self to tell others about you? Please elaborate.

I guess I want people to see me as a normal everyday person that is no different from themselves. I tweet regular stuff, write about regular things, speak about regular topics. I don’t want people setting up psychological barriers between me and them.

2.       Do you feel that you need to project a more socially ‘desirable’ online self? Why? Why not?

Good question. What I have tried to do is portray someone who I’d like to follow/subscribe/befriend myself. So what/who I portray must be desirable to me first, everyone else second. I need to be comfortable with myself, because I've been with myself for as long as I can remember and I’ll probably be with myself for the rest of my days. I’m not sure if this is socially desirable or not.

3.       Do you feel that you are always promoting /selling yourself or see yourself as a ‘brand’? In what ways?

I don’t think I sell myself very much, if at all. I don’t set out to brand myself, because what I do most (if not all) of the time is be the most comfortable with myself at any given time and place. Different contexts call for different actions, and I adjust accordingly so that I’m comfortable.

4.       Which language do you prefer to use when you update your online statuses (page profiles, tweets, etc)?

English and Malay. It’s really not constant, because I usually just use what language I’m using in my head at the time to express myself. But I do write a lot more English than Malay. My blog is almost completely in English.

5.       Do you make a conscious decision to use certain languages when it comes to updating your online statuses? Why? Why not?

If the situation calls for me to make a conscious decision, then yes. Such conscious decisions would come in situations when I only want to reach a certain community, or the message makes more sense in one language and not the other. I go for effective communication. Whichever language is best for what I want to get across determines which language I use. I may even use both the languages at my disposal if the situation calls for it.

6.       When you use certain languages online, do you portray a certain aspect of your real life self? How?

I think whichever language I use, it’s a depiction of my real life self. I only change the language I use if the situation calls for it (for example, if the person I’m communicating with isn’t very proficient in English and prefers to communicate in Malay, I use Malay.) both in real life and in social media.

7.       Is it important for other social media personalities be aware of their online selves that they project to others? Why? Why not?

I think it is. I think more people need to be more conscious of who they are and what they are comfortable with. I hate to see people sacrifice their own principles just because they think that that’s what the audience wants. I’d hate myself if I ever do it.

8.       In future, do you plan to project a new ‘online self’ to others? Why? Why not?

I don’t know yet. Maybe would be my answer. I would if I want to gain a different kind of audience; that is if I’m not comfortable with the audience that I have now. I wouldn't if it would make me uncomfortable.

May peace be upon you.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013


"I wrote this record while 30,000 feet in the air," Hol' Up by Kendrick Lamar.

So at this point I have just finished reading Khaled Hosseini's And The Mountains Echoed after lugging the book around for almost two weeks. As usual, I updated my GoodReads account, wrote a review on the book and thought "update pi lah blog pun", but not to review the book lah of course.

You see, one of my not-so-recent ambitions is to write fiction. Short stories, novels, doesn't really matter. I just want to be able to tell stories through writing. I marvel at and envy people who are able to do this well, Khaled Hosseini being one of them. He became a doctor before actually publishing his first book when he was 38. It took him some time, but in the end he pulled through and ended up being super-successful too. But I digress.

I follow a few writer-help-twitter-accounts on twitter and one of them tweeted something that sounded like this: "There's no such thing as an aspiring writer. You either write or you don't." And it hit me quite hard in my brain's figurative nuts. I am merely a wannabe-but-never-gonna-be.

I've always had this thought that one day, I'm going to be a writer. One day, I'll publish books. One day, one day. But I never actually wrote anything. I barely write on my blog as it is. I write assignments out of sheer force. Heck, I barely even write shopping lists.

And I have the gall to say that I'm going to be a writer? You may laugh that off immediately.

Macklemore says in his song Ten Thousand Hours "the greats weren't great because at birth they could paint, the greats were great because they painted a lot." I can't depend on this inner-feeling that I have that says that I'll be a writer someday. Why can't that someday be today? Why can't I be a writer now?

I give myself a lot of excuses as to why I can't write right now. Because I don't have a great idea yet. Because I haven't read enough books yet. Because I'm too busy, too tired, too occupied with other things to write. 

I have a friend who writes lots. He's a law students. He says he doesn't really read that many books. Not fictional ones anyway. He takes the attitude of "I write what I want to write. Whether you like it or not is not my problem". He also shared a quote on twitter the other day that goes "a writer is not judged by how well he writes; only by how badly he wants to write". And in that sense, I suppose I don't really have enough desire to write, judging from the multiple excuses I give myself to run away from actually writing. Because I'm afraid that I'll suck?

I shouldn't be afraid of sucking because I most definitely AM going to suck. No doubt about it. I most definitely AM going to produce shit-quality material. But that's irrelevant. The reality is 1 shit piece of writing is one step ahead and above no piece of writing at all. And, anakpakman, you're only kidding yourself when you say that you'll only be able to produce the same quality material for the rest of your life. You're only kidding yourself when you say that you won't improve after writing 100 shit-stories. You're only kidding yourself when you say you can't do it.

The fact of the matter is, you'll become a better writer as you write. So write, anakpakman, write now. Not tomorrow. Now.

May peace be upon you.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Only Myself To Blame

"It's too cold for you here and now," Sweater Weather by The Neighbourhood.

So my hands are trembling, I feel very tired but my eyes are wide open and my leg won't stop shaking. Plus, I feel like throwing up and my focus is nowhere to be found, so much so that I can't even read right. Let's just say that sleep deprivation and me don't mix too well.

It's my fault too. Stayed up until 4am tadi editing a video, and of course got up at 6.30am for subuh and ran some errands afterwards. If I had started it earlier as scheduled and not have procrastinated so much, I would have been able to get it done and still get a good 5 hours of sleep in. Why you do this to yourself, anakpakman, I will never know. And by this time, the word "procrastination" is my most resented word in the whole wide world at the moment. Too much of a big word can do things to ya, I tells ya. Here's the video, by the way:


Shameless, shameless plugging of self. But hey, it's my blog so I'll be narcissistic if I want to. Deal with it, Anwar.

But really, procrastination has been THE main problem for these last few years in my life, and I have no one to blame but myself.

It may have hit my video-making pretty hard, but let me tell you that I suffered the most academically through this shameful self-inflicted disease of mine. I can identify so much with waitbutwhy in their passage:

"In college, the sudden unbridled personal freedom was a disaster for me—I did nothing, ever, for any reason. The one exception was that I had to hand in papers from time to time. I would do those the night before, until I realized I could just do them through the night, and I did that until I realized I could actually start them in the early morning on the day they were due."

University life was crippling to me mostly because of the freedom I enjoyed. Nobody pushed me to get anything done (except probably pay the rent), and growing up my whole life having people push me to get stuff done (11 years of school and 2 and half years of Malaysian teacher training institute), this sudden lack of push made me stop in my tracks, always expecting some push but never getting any. 

I have now finished my B. Ed. TESOL degree studies, and although I've passed (alhamdulillah), I'm not proud of how I did. I just know that I could have done sooo much better if it not were for me and my waiting for the Panic Monster to come kicking down my door. I took on any excuse for not getting work done (part-time job, being tired and needing a nap, needing to go hang out with friends because I've only hung out with them five times this week, etc.).

There was this one assignment where we had to work in groups, and I loved that one so much and did quite well because there were other people around to push me to get things done. Any individual work (and there were a LOT of them) and I'd be floating around not getting anything done. Often I'd find myself helping other people out with the assignment when I haven't even started on mine yet. Anything to avoid doing actual work. It's shameful, really.

I'm exposing this to you dear reader because 1. sleep deprivation, and 2. so that you may take away a lesson from my experience. Damn here I am pretending to be all wise and shtuff. But really, I wish upon no one what I have inflicted upon myself. Please do what you can to be the best person you can be. It's never too late for anyone to take a turn for the better, least of all a 23-year-old male almost-graduate. 

Let's do this. If not fly, run. If not run, walk. You get the idea. Crawl.

May peace be upon you.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Blind Ferry

"I let my mind wander far beyond Mars," Budding Ornithologists Are Weary of Tired Analogies by Milo.

He stepped onto the ferry as he once did so often a few years ago. It hasn’t changed much. Just the seating orientation was different from how he remembered. It used to be rows lined up as if the passengers were all there to watch a movie or a staging that was supposed to happen at the front of the vessel. Now it’s just two pairs of columns of chairs lining up almost all the way back and all the way to the front of the top floor of the ferry, each set of chairs in the pair facing the other. A lot more standing space, a lot less seats.

He made his way right up to the front of the ferry. There was a slight breeze, but not strong enough to blow his fedora off his head. He still held it in place while pacing to the bow though, for lack of anything to do with his hands more than anything. He led the congregation of strangers making their way back to the island of the orient. Or was it the pearl or something? Ah, he couldn’t be bothered. It’s not like it was his hometown or anything. He just studied there.

Right up to the front side on the right wall of the vessel was what looked like a bench that wouldn’t be out of place in a garden of a bungalow somewhere. He rested his weary backside on the far right side of the bench, placing his black Country Road duffel bag to his left so that no one gets too close. His eyes roam the mixture of people before him. Mostly tired-looking people, most probably on their way back home after a long days’ work. He checked his watch. 8:02 p.m. Yeah, they’re definitely from their work places.

Before his eyes could have another go over the light crowd, two men approached him from his blind spot. He only noticed them after one of them said “Duduk sini ya?” He wore a uniform. One of those corporate button up shirts. Must be a ferry worker.

While taking his seat, the other man replied, “Terima kasih.” to which the man in the corporate shirt gave a slight smile, turned on his heels and walked back in the direction he came from.

The other man was blind. He held a walking stick and was glancing all over the place without really seeming to look at anything, even with his eyes wide open. Damn, thought fedora man. Did I just sit on a disabled-people seat? He searched the wall behind him for any signage that would confirm that he was being a douchebag, but besides the wording “Pulau Angsa”, no sign of a logo denoting that it was a “special area” was to be seen. Phew.

The ferry embarked on its 20-minute journey to the island soon afterwards.

He shifted his eyes to the man beside him. Slim. Shirt and jeans; his kind of guy. Looks around his age too, maybe a little older. Besides his walking stick, he had a plastic bag in his hand. Fedora peeked into his plastic bag to find what looked like some Tiger cookies, kuih kacang tumbuk (if that was what they were called) and some other thing he couldn’t quite figure out.

Suddenly the blind man put his hand in his pocket to pull out a phone, one of those old Nokias that had polyphonic ringtones. He unlocked the phone and put it up to his ear, the screen facing outwards. Fedora observed him doing this in suppressed fascination. 

He could see that the blind man was on the message page. Rows of texts from “Sayang” could be read when he entered his inbox. Fedora briefly raised his eyebrows. This dude’s blind and he has a girlfriend? God I’m such a loser.

The blind man clicked on his texts and seemed to be listening to them. Fedora did try to eavesdrop on the phone, but he couldn’t get his ear close enough to the phone without seeming creepy, so he sat back. He never knew that phones had a “read text messages for me” feature. Even his iPhone couldn’t do that, as far as he knew.

The blind man continued listening to his text messages for a few minutes before putting it away in his pocket. He then felt around in his plastic bag of snacks and took out the packet of Tiger cookies and sniffed it. Fedora, again, fascinated, wondered if he should offer a helping hand at opening the packet. I want to help the dude, but I don’t want to insult him. He could very well do it on his own, seeing that he’s an adult. Would I be insulted if someone offered to do something I had been doing myself for a long time? I probably would.

While he mulled over the idea, the blind man put back the packet in the plastic bag and took out the packet of kuih kacang tumbuk and sniffed it. After a couple of good long sniffs, he felt around with his fingers the tip of the packet and bit down on the plastic. He tore it open with his mouth, ever so ungracefully, but effectively nonetheless. After a few bites and spits later, his finger went into the small opening he made for himself and opened the hole a little more. He took out one kuih, unwrapped it and ate the thing in two successive bites. While chewing on the kuih, he put the packet back into the plastic bag.

See? Thought fedora. He is perfectly capable of feeding himself. He withheld a chuckle before his eyes again ventured around the not too crowded ferry area.

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Degree of Certainty

"You live what you've learned," Points of Authority by Linkin Park.

So I have officially ended my days as a B. Ed. TESOL undergrad. Not a graduate yet though. Without the scroll (which will be awarded in April-ish), I am still as good as a secondary school leaver. 

Having said that, I have spent a very significant part of my life (5 years and a half, to be clear) being around 60 other people who are known as the B. Ed. TESOL IPGKPP-Macquarie University students, and finishing my degree studies also marks the end of my official association with those people in the course.

I have grown from a scrawny, arrogant young punk to a less scrawny, more grateful young man (I can never get used to calling myself a man, man). And those 60-odd people have played a big part in making that happen, some bigger than others, but a role they have played nonetheless.

I never was any good with goodbyes.

I would like to thank all of these people for helping me become the person I am today. Some have helped me in times of trouble, being living proof that genuinely good people are out there. Some have shared my struggles, allowed me into their lives and together build each others' understanding of the world. We've laughed, we've cried, we've fought, made up, talked and talked, or sometimes just enjoyed each others' silent company. 

The road is a long one still for each and every one of us. It is unfortunate that we have to part ways and from now on grow separately, but what is meeting without parting? It is why our brief encounters with each other become ever so valuable.

We shall cross paths again in the future, I am certain of that. Although maybe not in the totality of our studying days, but meet again we shall, inshaAllah. Until then, I wish each and every one of you the best in your future endeavours.

For better or for worse; for good.

May peace be upon you.