Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Book Launch

So last Saturday, I attended my first-ever book launch, and it happened to be the launching of my own book. I don’t know how to feel about that sentence.

Among the people that came to the event was a reporter from, an awesome gossip-free news and information website dedicated to delivering content relevant to all Malaysian art consumers (I've already bookmarked the website for regular visits), and they wrote an awesome piece reporting how the book-launch went. You can go read it here:

I cannot possibly do any better in reporting about what happened throughout the event, so if you want to know how it went, please click on the link above.

I will, however, comment on the reporter’s comment of me being “composed, suave and charming”. To be honest, that made me giggle and blush a little bit. But personally, I just felt low on energy during the event, because I had yet to have lunch when the event was going on, and my adrenaline was wearing out, so that may have made me look more laid-back. I felt awkward the whole time I was on the microphone, and singing along to Suiko Takahara’s songs with her was my favourite part of the talky part of the event.

Being able to meet and talk to the people that bought the book was definitely a high point in the day too, because I got to express my gratitude towards them in person, and I am always thankful to be given that opportunity. And I thank all of you who are reading this right now, too. Thank you for taking time out of your day to read what I have to write here on this here blog, and thank you for all the support you’ve given me thus far, regardless of which parts of my endeavours you choose to support. I am very grateful and may God bless.

Monday, March 2, 2015

EnglishJer Camp

Last weekend was a bit of a roller coaster ride for me, but one of the high points of it was being able to attend the Englishjer Camp, organised by the not-for-profit organisation/youth development activist/ anonymous twitter account: @Englishjer. The camp was held in Ulu Yam, Selangor, was attended by about 50 people and spanned 3 days and two nights. The camp aimed to develop the attendees’ leadership abilities as well as their communicative capabilities while having loads of fun. And fun was indeed had. I could only join them for one night, but that was enough to thoroughly convince me that the camp was one of the best camping outings I’ve ever attended.

The night I attended was the night Jamal Raslan, a spoken word poet, was to deliver a talk. I came a little early and was fortunate enough to be able to join the campers for dinner. After dinner, we all assembled in the hall at the campsite for Jamal Raslan’s session with the campers. I had no prior knowledge of Jamal Raslan at that time, so I didn’t really know what to expect.

He started talking and it immediately became abundantly clear why he was invited to become a speaker for the programme. He was very passionate and knowledgeable about language, culture, communication as well as education. He started off by saying that learning a new language wasn’t about grammar or vocabulary; it was about fear and expressing yourself (I’m paraphrasing, of course. He said it waaaay more articulately). 

He also talked a lot about poetry and why poems and doing poetry mattered to him. He said that there’s poetry that’s meant to be read, and then there’s poetry that’s meant to be read (hashtag 3deep5me). He stressed on what the most important aspects of a piece of poetry are, which are “(something I can’t remember now), relevance, and resonance”, and elaborated on how resonance is what people take home with them after they listen to a piece of spoken poetry. It goes without saying that he performed some of his poems for us that night and made more than a few jaws drop. He was energetic, enthusiastic and passionate, all great ingredients to make for a wonderful public speaker. His fire was infectious and it captured our attentions as well as our hearts, so much so that we could have listened to him talking the whole night.

Afterwards, the camp masters set up bonfires at the campsite and we crowded around the fires, cooking hot-dogs as well as marshmallows deep into the night and early morning. We talked about things like why we like certain subjects over others, shared our experiences and sang and sang to our hearts’ content around the bonfire. 

The next morning, the campers went out for jungle trekking, but I couldn’t join them because I had to go back for school the next day. I hung out with those that weren’t up for the trekking the jungle and we talked and played a game called “Green Glass Door”. How do you play the game? We had to figure that out for ourselves. The main clue that was given was “can cannot, cannot can”. Good luck figuring that out. It took me collectively about an hour to get it. If you want to try your hand at playing that game with me, feel free to say “Green Glass Door” to me whenever you see me in real life. See can, real life cannot.

I met new awesome people, got to play awesome games, listened to an amazing speaker talk about his passion, and have loads of fun. Here’s to more EJcamps in the future.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Akademi Belia Book Club First Meeting

So last weekend was the very first Akademi Belia Book Club meeting. Alhamdulillah, it went well.

We discussed Aiman Azlan and Ameen Misran’s jointly written book, The Other Side of the Coin. It’s basically a book discussing five main themes: identity, love, self-worth, education and religion. 

In total, 14 people were in attendance, including Aiman Azlan, six people from Akademi Belia (which includes myself) and seven other people who cleared their schedule to join us in our discussion. I thank everyone who attended the session.

What was interesting about the meeting was that besides Aiman Azlan and me, everyone who came didn’t read the book prior to coming to the Book Club meeting, and I actually thought that that’d be the worst thing to happen ever, but it turned out to be a fruitful session anyway. Credit to Aiman Azlan for being able to carry the discussion forward even under those circumstances.

It actually got off to a somewhat of a slow start, with the attendees asking questions to Aiman Azlan so they could get Aiman’s perspective on matters that they wanted to hear about. It was basically shaping up much like a Q&A session with Aiman Azlan, which wasn’t a bad thing at all.

But in my view, the meeting picked up pace when people started interjecting with their own perspectives on those matters and started sharing their experience concerning the question that was asked. I admittedly did a lot of that myself, chipping in with my opinions and sharing my experience about what was being talked about. My brothers and sisters from Akademi Belia also chipped in with interesting points of views, and because a teacher friend of mine was also in attendance, her views on education were also sought after.

I like those kinds of free-flowing discussions, where people chip in and share their views and experiences in the what of the moment, open and civil discussions that move on naturally from topic to topic and explore issues that expose all the attendees to many different ways of looking at any issue. I love listening to them and contributing to the discussion when I can.

We ended up overshooting the discussion by an hour (apologies to Aiman Azlan and wife for taking up their time) since we got carried away with the things that we were talking about that evening. Conversations that make you lose track of time are the best though, aren’t they?

I hope to conduct another session next month in or around Kuala Lumpur pulak, and hopefully it’ll be just as enjoyable and thought-provoking.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Of School Prefects and Rugby Players

Today at school, the new head student was appointed. The ceremony reminded me of my own experience being a prefect back in my schooling days. I had a think about why prefects were appointed in the first place. There might be several reasons, but the most obvious one (to me at least) would be to develop the selected students’ leadership abilities. 

I was a prefect for four years of my schooling life (Form 2 — Form 5), but I feel that besides for the annual “leadership camps” that we were required to go for, the experience of being a prefect developed little of my leadership ability. A lot of the time, I just felt like I was put in those long sleeves, white pants and black shoes just because being a prefect would look good on my pre-university resumé, and for some reasons that only the said teachers can disclose, they wanted my resumé to look nice. 

Being a teacher’s son probably had something to do with it, but I know for a fact that my father would never approve of any of his children getting special treatment just because their father was teaching there. Maybe it was because I spoke so little in school, that some teachers felt that I was “well-behaved” enough to be a prefect. Honestly speaking, that was just plain-old introverted-ness on my part.

Moving on to why I don't think that being a prefect helped develop my understanding of leadership nor leadership ability that much, I had for the most part of my perfecting days been negligent of my own incompetence. I didn’t even know what I didn’t know, what more to know anything at all about leadership. I learned how to be a good student in the sense that I knew to not speak too much when a teacher’s in class teaching, and I knew that I had to keep good scores in my exams because that was basically my self-worth as a student, but I could have learned all of that by being just a regular non-prefect student, kan?

As a prefect, I got “duties” that I had to attend to. Depending on what the prefect duty-roster looked like, I either had to make sure that students lined up outside of their classes in the mornings to listen to the morning announcements, or stand at my designated post at various places throughout the school compound, or stand at the school entrance to “catch” latecomers and write down their names to give to the discipline teacher. My least favourite thing to do is to make sure that my fellow students kept quiet during the weekly school assembly. That terrified me to bits, and I always envied the prefects that were also part of the band, because they had to play their music instruments up in the balcony of the hall, and were thus always excused from floor duty.

What I learned from all of that experience was probably that I had to be aware of my responsibilities as a prefect to be at certain places at certain times to do certain jobs. But, again, I can argue that non-prefects learn that too, through the class duty-rosters where people were expected to swipe the floor, take out the trash and wipe the whiteboard when their turn came. Ours was just an extension of that, I believe, both in setting (outside of class instead of inside it) and subject (fellow students instead of rubbish on the floor). If it taught me anything, it taught me to follow orders without asking any questions, and that it was more noble to rat out my fellow friends to the authorities than to be a loyal friend and look for win-win solutions to problems that arose. Was this the brand of leadership that they wanted?

I learned more about leadership through playing rugby, to be frank. Teamwork and loyalty were of utmost importance. Integrity was at the heart of the game. Sportsmanship was the only accepted culture on the field and off it. And by manoeuvring the game, we learned how to manoeuvre life. 

We learned that life was tough, so we had to be tougher. We learned that there was no room for fear and that we had to wear our hearts on our sleeves in every play. We learned that respect had to be given in order to be gained. We learned that every move was done for a bigger purpose. We learned that if we focussed on our performance, the results would come. We learned that we didn’t need to win to be successful. We learned to take defeat in our stride and to take victory as a challenge. We learned that communication was the key to everything.

I would have cherished my prefect-ship if it meant more to me. Alas, I still don’t see it as more than just a pretty thing that was put on my resumé.

Disclosure: I am only talking about my own experience being a prefect at my own school back when I was still in school. It does not and should not apply to anyone else’s experience.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Favourite Places

Because I've been spending these last couple of days in my hometown, in this post I'll list down the places that I hold dear to me. This is not an exhaustive list, mind you, because yours truly is exhausted.

1. Alor Setar
This town (I never really could see it as a city) will always have a special place in my heart because this was where I spent most of my childhood and teenage years. I went to primary and secondary school here (SK Iskandar and Kolej Sultan Abdul Hamid respectively) and made friends that I am still close to even today. I did a lot of learning and growing up here, from being a snot-nosed child to a snot-nosed adolescent, played most of my rugby here and have relatives still living here. This is where I learned how to pray and read the Quran (Tok Mami's house), tried and failed to organize a prefect dinner, looked at girls in my pubescent years, all that growing up stuff. I still have love for it now because its where I get to meet and catch up with my childhood friends, find good food and good coffee, and just be in a chill environment. It'll always be where I call home.

2. Pulau Pinang
Penang has burnt itself a permanent inside of me by being the place I grew out of my teenage years and started using my brain more. This is mostly due to my wonderful lecturers who taught me during my time in Penang's Teacher Training Institute. It's also the place I learned to get good behind the wheel of a car. Learning to drive in Penang can definitely be considered being thrown into the deep end of the pool. I survived, somehow, and I personally think anyone who can drive in Penang can drive easily anywhere in Malaysia. It remains relevant to me today because I work there now, and good food is around (only if you know where to go), and the beaches are always good getaway spots (again, only if you know where to go).

3. Sydney
I credit this foreign land down under for turning me into somewhat of an adult. Over there I had to survive without the help of my parents and without grownups telling me what to do at every turn. It was the place that I first tasted what freedom to make choices felt like, from choosing where I stayed, to where I ate, to what I wanted to study as an elective for whole semesters at a time. It was a weird thing for me, since all my life until then, most of everything I did was following instructions. Then I got to this place and the instructions weren't there anymore. Or at least they weren't as obvious as before. It was both liberating and scary at the same time. In Sydney I learned what it meant to take control of my life and understood how my choices affected (or didn't affect) others around me. I also met some amazing people there, some friends i hope to remain friends with for a very very long time. Over there, I also learned that my biggest weakness was my inability to face my problems head on. I learned that at every chance I got, I ran away from my problems, and that isn't healthy at all. The first step to solving any problem is to acknowledge that you have one, and that first step was made in Sydney. I am still struggling with it today, but I am grateful that I identified it then rather than later.

4. Twelve Apostles
This is a spot in Australia too, in the state of Victoria. I went there with a couple of friends of mine, and it was the first time I ever had the sensation of breathlessness because of the sheer beauty of a spot in nature. I literally forgot to breathe for a good thirty seconds or so because I was so mezmerized by the amazing view that was in front of me. It has now become my favourite spot in the world, and I would go there at the drop of a hat, if only my circumstances would allow it.

So those are a few places that mean a lot to me. There are some others, but maybe I'll write about them some other time.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Boring People

My brother once said "only boring people get bored". He has a point there.

Let's examine why a person gets bored in the first place. I'm sure it happens to all of us at one point or another.

We get bored when we have time on our hands and we don't know what to do with it. Like if I were to have an hour before I have to go to class, but I've already planned out my lessons for the day, and even for tomorrow, and I've already marked all my books and got my school paperwork in order. I have nothing else to do for that hour before I go into class, thus I'm bored.

We get bored when we're fed up with doing a certain thing and we'd rather be doing something else. Like when I'm marking my students' activity books and halfway through them I get tired of seeing the answers to the same questions over and over again, I'd rather be doing something else, but I don't know what, thus I'm bored.

Those are two situations in which one could be considered bored, but both of them stem from us wishing that we were doing something else. The first one was us wishing that we were not doing nothing, and the second one was us wishing we were not doing what we were doing at that moment in time.

What does one do when faced with these situations? Does one exhale and say "I'm bored!" in a complaining tone of voice? Or does one actually do something about it?

If we're part of the former, then we're in all actuality boring people. Because non-boring people wouldn't allow themselves to get bored. They'd detect that feeling that they'd rather be doing something else, and because they realise that they are in control of their own bodies, they get up and go do something else that excites them more, gains more of their attention, is more enjoyable and meaningful to themselves.

Boring people don't seem to be aware of this fact. Boring people think that something has to happen to them to suck them out of the vortex of boredom they've found themselves in. Boring people don't seem to realise that being boted is a choice. You choose to remain bored, and that has made all the difference.

Stop being a boring person, Anwar.

Kenduri Di Perlis

ISo the last couple of days have been a hoot. 

"What's a hoot Anwar?"

It's uhm.. aaa.. It's like.. ahh..

Moving on. I went to Perlis for a friend's brother-in-law's wedding ceremony. It was held in one of those homes that were situated in the middle of paddy fields, so the view was great.

I went there with a group of teacher friends and their families. They brought along their children too, so that added to the joy. Being able to carry and play with fellow 8-month-olds is always fun. They get me.

The first night we came, we helped pack the doorgifts that were meant for the guests that were to arrive the next day. A teacher friend made a good point that filling bags up with water bottles, pulut and peanuts production-line-style was a job that required little thinking, which was a breathe of fresh air from our full-time jobs (teaching), which required us to think on the constant, both while in and out of class. We had fun doing it, goofing off while getting the job done.

On the actual day of the kenduri, we had little to do since most of the hard work was being done by the hired catering company. I made a (bad) joke that I couldn't tweet earlier because the phone was dead. It goes:

"What cat feeds you the most?"


Cue crickets. Aaand moving on.

After eating what was prepared at the feast, I went back home. 

I am very fortunate to have the group of teacher friends that I have now. They're a fun and kind group of people, who can get work done while having a laugh about it. I am grateful to be able to call them friends.