Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Closing And Opening Chapters

So I've been meaning to write since the end of the 2016 school term which was almost two weeks ago, but stuff and things (moving houses, mostly) have taken up most of my time and I haven't made the time to write anything here until now. So here goes.

The last week of school was a tough one. On the one hand, I was looking forward to moving out of that school and moving closer to my wife. On the other hand, I dreaded leaving the friends that I had made over there. It was the first time that I felt like I was closing a chapter of my life, one day at a time, for about a week.

Perda had been a learning ground for me. I first learned what it meant to be a full-time teacher, which was eye-opening to say the least. I was made aware of the full scope of being a teacher, and I learned for the first time that it might not be the thing for me.

I also learned about people the ways in which I could be a better friend. This was largely due to the friends that I made while teaching there. I never thought I could be such close friends with people who were significantly older than me, but they've taught me that there's more to people than just their age. If I give people a chance, just like I gave this group of people, they might surprise me by being super nice, kind and accommodating to a snot-nosed greenie like myself. They taught me to trust and to be trustworthy. They taught me loyalty. Not by telling me to be these things, but by embodying those traits and showing me how it's done. I shall be forever grateful to them for that.

Moving houses has been alright, in reality. It's just me who dislikes packing things and unpacking things that has made me feel like it's not so great. Attitude problem ja sebenaqnya. My wife and her family has been super helpful throughout the process, so I am grateful for that as well. I just try to help where I can. After a full week of work on getting the new apartment ready, it still isn't ready to be lived in quite yet. There are still a few finishing touches that need to be attended to before we can finally call it our new home.

I'm looking forward to see what life has in store for me in the future. What will the school be like? Will I be able to cope with the new working environment? What new people shall I meet? Will I be able to keep meeting up with old friends at least semi-regularly? Will I be able to take on projects more freely in the  coming months? Will I squander the opportunities that come my way? All anxiety-inducing questions, but I'm trying to take it one day at a time. That's about as much as I can take on a daily basis, if I'm honest.

Here's to the next chapter. May interesting stories come out of it.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Forum Questions Brainstormed

What are some of the factors that contribute to the lack in English proficiency amongst Malaysians?

First and foremost, I think it's safe to say that for the vast majority of Malaysians, English isn't our first language. So we have to look at the issue from that perspective. It would be unreasonable to expect a person to be able to use their second language as well as a person who uses the same language as their mother tongue. Expectations need to be managed, in that sense.

However, it would also be reasonable to expect a person to have more or less an okay grasp of the language if they're supposed to have been learning the language for 11 years (as some Malaysians would, having gone to school from the age of seven to the age of seventeen). So there's that side of the equation that needs to be taken into consideration when managing one's expectations as well.

Through my own limited experience of teaching and listening to the people around me, it hinges a lot on how much one is exposed to the language on a daily basis. People who have limited opportunities to listen to, read, watch and interact with English material or media will most probably also have a limited understanding of the language. This is true of any second or third language user.

Think about a third language that you've been exposed to. For me, it might be Japanese. I know some Japanese phrases, but nowhere near enough to be able to carry a conversation in the language. This is directly related to how much Japanese I expose myself to on a daily basis, which is probably once a year. So it would be reasonable to say that my Japanese is terrible, because I am not exposed to the language nowhere nearly enough.

To illustrate a different example, I'll use my students. The ones who have a firm grasp of the language more often than not are exposed to the language. Their parents play them English songs, English tv shows, English videos, and get them English books. Compare this to the students that struggle with the language. More often than not, they aren't getting as much exposure to the language. Because of the lack of exposure, the opportunity for them to get better at the language is limited too, since they aren't able to engage with the language on a regular basis.

How does one improve their English ability?

Carrying forward the previous argument, I would say that one of the first steps to improving is exposing yourself to as much of the language as possible. Be in an environment that is conducive for a person to pick up the language. Read, watch and listen to English material whenever you can. Do that to the point where one can even think in the language without breaking too much of a sweat.

Then one can start producing English material. By that, I mean write and speak in English. Writing and speaking are skills, much like a bicycle. So if a person has limited experience riding a bicycle, one shouldn't expect to be able to participate in Le Tour de Langkawi after a week of practice. It'll take a long long time before one gets any good, but with hard work and persistence, one should be able to reach the level of ability that they desire, later, rather than sooner, might I add.

Who do we look to for role models?
I think that's a personal decision. There is no wrong answer, as long as one perceives that that chosen role model embodies something that the person wants to achieve someday in the future. It can be celebrities that one admires, it can be a father/mother figure in one's life, it can be a teacher, it can be a restaurant cook. As long as a person shows certain attributes that one would like to have, then there shouldn't be any reason that they can't be role models to someone else.

For myself, I sort of pick and choose attributes. I will admire Kendrick Lamar's song-writing ability, Yasmin Ahmad's optimism about life, my wife's passion and musicality, Michelle Obama's eloquence, Iñarritu's film-making ability, my friends' brains, etc. so that I don't fall into the trap of idolatry, where everything everyone does is positive, even the things that disagree with my principles. I am open to learning and understanding from people I admire, but if one is at fault and does something that calls for criticism, I want to be able to make that judgement call, even if they're my hero in certain aspects of my life.

What kind of English is acceptable? (Manglish or Queen's English)
I hold the belief that all forms of language, in their own way have something to offer. I made a video poking fun at the "ew" language used by certain people several years ago, and even though in principle I don't ever see myself using that variation of language in the future, I can better appreciate that it is used for self-expression, and if it's understood by both the transmitter and the receiver, then it shouldn't be too much of an issue.

The struggle happens when there's a misunderstanding between two parties because of the form of language. If one uses Manglish in a setting where formal English is expected of them, then a disconnect forms and effective communication is harder to achieve. It's the same the other way round as well. When the setting is informal, in Malaysia where people are used to speaking in Manglish, then the use of formal English isn't very suitable. People can still understand each other, but a barrier is formed that restricts effective communication all the same. So in answering the question of what type of English is acceptable, one needs to use the language that suits the context of the use. If the context calls for more formal language, then use that. If it calls for Manglish, then use that.

Where is the best place to improve? (home or school)
I think both the home and the school has their place in helping us get better at the language. We spend a lot more time at home, so it would be great to have a lot of exposure to the language there, find opportunities to expose yourself to the language at home. Similarly, at school one could practice as well. The added feature of learning language at school is the availability of a teacher to consult. So effective feedback can be received from teachers at school, which helps in improving one's language ability as well. In both cases, one has to be proactive in finding ways in which to improve their language ability. One can spend as much time at home or at school, but if one doesn't put in the effort to get better, chances are their road to progress will be slower than if they were to be more proactive.

When is it okay to talk to our friends in English?
When our friends are okay with us speaking in English. As I have said in answering a previous question, it weighs heavily on context. Who are we talking to? Are they receptive to the idea of speaking in English? How would speaking in English make them feel? Would it be helpful to both parties of one started to speak in English? One needs to make sure the environment is conducive for such interactions. One also needs to be clear about what they're doing, so as to not rub people the wrong way.

What are your current pursuits of knowledge?
I'm learning how to write songs. I'm learning how to be a better film-maker. I'm learning a little philosophy here and there. I'm learning comedy as well. I'm also learning public speaking.

What area of knowledge is opened to us with the use of English?
Most of the internet is in English, so if one wants to learn something through the internet, chances are, English is involved in it somehow. So much content is available in English and not available in Malay that it's sad that so much knowledge remains out of reach for some people just because of the language barrier. One either needs to find a translated work, or work on understanding English better to gain access to the barrels of information that is available to us in this day and age.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Ambition As A Tool

So earlier today I started listening to a new podcast called the "The Tim Ferriss Show". It's one of the more popular podcasts in the world and I got on the train rather late for a person who calls himself a fan of podcasts. It's a show that "deconstructs world-class performers from all different trades and specialties", which means Mr Ferriss (who is himself a best-selling author of multiple books) interviewing other super successful people to find out what makes them tick.

The first episode I listened to was an episode from last year, episode 118 with Alain de Botton, a philosopher who has written several books and has a Youtube channel called The School of Life, which – among other things – tries to tackle the big questions of life such as "The Meaning of Life", "The Secrets of Happiness" and "Higher Consciousness".

I started with this episode because a friend of mine recommended it on instagram, and upon hearing Mr de Botton's voice, I instantly recognised it from the School Of Life videos which I have watched several of in the past year or so, not knowing it was Mr de Botton's voice all the while. I highly recommend The School of Life to whoever wants to start dabbling (or at least listen to) philosophical questions and explorations.

Back to the podcast episode, I was definitely absorbed in the conversation that Mr Ferriss and Mr de Botton was having. They tackled issues as to how philosophy can be useful to everyone in everyday life, how modern day universities have made philosophy out of the mainstream's reach as well as how to be happy in life. And there was this one thing that Mr Ferriss said that forced me to pause the episode and be mind-blown by for a bit, which was "ambition is a good tool, but a terrible master".

This quote might have been around for a while, and Mr Ferriss might have just plucked it from a cat poster somewhere in his office, but it definitely was new to me and shed a totally different light on ambition from how I've been viewing it all this while throughout my life.

I've always viewed ambition as a goal, as something to strive for, an end product. I want to "achieve" an ambition, and thus live life, for lack of a better term, "berkiblatkan" these ambitions that I have. Everything I did was to service these ambitions of mine and I'd always thought that that was the "correct" way of looking at it.

But Mr Ferriss said that it was possible to use ambition as a tool, as a means to an end. And what I imagine that end to be is happiness (however you want to define happiness is up to you). Because what's the point of having lofty ambitions if all they do is make you miserable? And I have to admit that I'm definitely guilty of that. I allow myself to kick myself in the head so much because I haven't reached my ambitions yet.

All it takes is a change of perspective, from seeing ambition as an end to seeing ambition as a tool to make me feel a lot less crappy about myself. And in my mind, that makes sense. I shouldn't let my ambition use me, I should use my ambition. Use it as a fire that drives me forward toward a goal, while at the same time being mindful of being kind to others and myself and count my blessings and give myself the permission to be happy as often as I can.

As it is, I'm still struggling with this paradigm shift, as you could probably read. I'm still figuring it out and I have a lot to learn still. It would probably take me a couple more listens to the podcast episode as well as more time thinking about it (not to mention the reading material I'll have to go through) before I am fully able to grasp the concept. But here's to paradigm shifts and learning new things in order to allow ourselves to enjoy our time on Earth better, yes?

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Micro Malaysia

So a couple of months ago I received a call from the people of FIXI (a local book publishing company) in which they asked me if I would be interested in editing a short story anthology for them. Given that this was a new experience to me and that I am a fan of books and stories in general, I took up the offer with very few questions asked.

The book shall be called MICRO-MALAYSIA and the details are in the following picture:

I'm excited to be taking on this task, and as of writing this, I am just starting to embark on the journey by going through the entries hoping to find some gems within the entries that have been sent in (there are more than 200 entries as of writing this post).

If you're reading this right now, I would encourage you to try it out. Please make my life more difficult by sending in as many entries as you can. Who knows? You might get to put "published author" on your resumé if all goes well. Although, as the editor, I make no promises. My focus right now is finding the best pieces to include in the book, and that's that. Hopefully I'll be able to find 100 pieces that stand out. I want this book to be good. Like, good good.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Incremental Gains

So the other day I was listening to an episode of the Freakonomics podcast called "In Praise of Incrementalism". It talks about how the gay rights movement followed the incrementalist approach in fighting for their cause to get to where they are now (in the US, at least) and how the journey of that movement may inform the #BlackLivesMatter movement of today's modern day US. It's a moving episode, and I highly recommend it if you're in the mood for listening to a podcast.

It made me think about the thing that has been occupying my mind as of late, which is an English Language workshop that I'll be conducting at the International Islamic University of Malaysia this weekend. I'll be handling two slots, which consist of a slot about grammar (snorefest, I know) and another on building confidence (in case you're wondering whether it's the act of making one's belief in their abilities better or the piece of infrastructure called "confidence", it's the former).

I have worries for both of them, as one would expect from anxious little me. I am struggling with finding a way to make a two-hour session on grammar un-boring. I've reached into my little bag of pedagogy and I have a few things prepared, but I'm not fully convinced if it's enough, and I am at a loss to find anything else to add to the session. I've never actually tried to teach young adults before, since the only teaching experience I have is in teaching people below 9, so it's a new kind of challenge to prepare lessons to people above 18. Not to say that I have no experience talking to such people. Indeed I have attended forums and events in which I have had to address young adults multiple times before, but never before have I ever had to talk to them about grammar, so we'll have to see how it goes.

The second slot is where incrementalism comes into the discussion. In building self-confidence, one needs practice. One is inclined to feel a lack of confidence when one feels that they lack ability in doing a certain thing. I would be very doubtful of my ability to play the piano because I know for a fact that I am very bad at it, and I know that I'm very bad at it because I've had very little practice with the instrument. I would, however, be more confident in playing the guitar, because I've been playing the instrument (on and off) for ten years now.

And in setting one's expectations in practice, one cannot expect to be able to play Beethoven after a day, or even a month, or even a year of practice. One needs an incrementalist mindset when thinking about playing a brand new instrument. So from 0% knowledge of the piano, work to get to 1%. Don't immediately set your sights on 100%. Yes, it's great to be ambitious about things, but in setting expectations for yourself in practice sessions, we need to take it one step at a time, increment by increment, from 1% to 2%, then to 3% and so on and so forth. Celebrate small wins, keep working to get just that little bit better, and before you know it you've reached great heights.

I am also reminded of the analogy of the ladder. One has to go up the ladder one step at a time. It may be slower, but it works, and ensures that the likelihood of one falling off the ladder altogether is minimised. So in climbing that ladder, one has to try one's best to focus on that next, immediate step above them and try to reach for that one and that one only at the time. Reach for the next one when you have already a firm grip on the step that you tried to grasp before it. Similarly, in anything that you're either trying to get better at, or in something that you want to achieve, at all points of the journey, one has to find out what the immediate next marginal but incremental step is and strive for it. It may not be glamorous, but it is the closest guarantee one has to making it work.

All this talk of incrementalism is directed at me too. I find that in the things that I want to achieve and be better at, I compare myself to people who are already great at the thing all the time. It's unhealthy in the sense that I feel down all the time and it demotivates me because I feel like that level in unattainable. I have to readjust my lens and set my focus on marginal incremental gains, as I have been saying in the past few paragraphs. That will help motivate me to get better because I will feel like those goals are a lot more achievable, thus motivating me to achieve those small steps going forward. As I've said so many times before on this blog, it won't be easy. But I guess it was never supposed to be.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Invigilating Preschool Teachers

So for the better part of this week, I was involved in invigilating an English language proficiency test meant for public preschool teachers. This involved being in a big hall to stand around and make sure nobody cheats on the reading, writing and listening papers as well as conducting a speaking test.

The reading, writing and listening papers were pretty straight forward. All I had to do was hand out some papers, wait until the allotted time was up, then collect them for marking. Waiting for people to finish answering written tests may not require a lot of skill, but it sure as heaven requires a lot of patience. I don't think that I would have minded it as much if I was allowed to listen to podcasts or even read a book while waiting. But, no. What was expected of us was to hand the papers out, wait while doing nothing, and collect the papers at the end. Nothing less, and certainly nothing more. Even having conversations with the other invigilators would be problematic because that would mean being a distraction to the people who were sitting for the papers. So I paced back and forth, sat down, stood back up, drank lots of water, went to the restroom, came back, paced back and forth again. Not the funnest thing in the world, I assure you.

The speaking test was a lot more engaging, since I had to speak to the teachers, or to put it more accurately, get them to speak and listen. I got to talk to eight preschool teachers, four at a time, about their families, travel dreams and their thoughts on the teaching profession. Some of the teachers' expressions sounded rehearsed, but I guess that is to be expected in a test setting. English certainly wasn't the first language of any of these teachers, so of course they would want to go into the test with some lines nailed down before doing it.

I felt that they were somewhat more candid in their thoughts about being a teacher though. Several seemed to go off script and started just telling the group their grievances about their profession and some shared stories about their kids and their real life classroom experiences. That was more engaging to me as the person on the other side of the marking sheet. Because they were more engaged in the conversation, I inadvertently became more invested in them. I was glad that they allowed themselves to open up and explore their thoughts more plainly because it felt more sincere and hit closer to home. And although the marking rubric is still the marking rubric and I had to give them points based off of their language proficiency, they definitely brightened up my day with their willingness to share. By the end of the sessions, I wished it didn't have to end so quickly, since I was absolutely invested in their thoughts and stories. But of course, a test was a test, and the preschool teachers wanted nothing more than to have the session over and done with so that they can go back home to their families and not have to face the stress of taking the test anymore. I would feel the same way if I were in their shoes.

The whole experience allowed me to interact with adults in a weird way. Like, what I had to do was encourage the teachers to speak so that I would be able to better assess their ability to speak in English, so when they got to a dead end in their monologue, I'd chip in with a question to get the thoughts flowing again so that they may talk again. A lot like an interview, and I liked it. Like, I was facilitating their thought process and reminding them of things they already know, just needing the slight nudge in the form of the right question to get the thought out there. And I like being able to do that.

At the end of the session, one preschool teacher asked me if I was from the JPN (Jabatan Pendidikan Negeri), and was surprised to know that I was a primary school English teacher. It was fair of them to think that, I think, because if I were in their position, I wouldn't expect the person assessing me to be a peer of mine either. The teacher who asked me that said that I seemed more like a counsellor, and I found that amusing. I asked her why she felt that way, but she couldn't find the words to explain why she said that, but I thanked her anyway.

I'd like to comfort myself with the thought that she said that because I was able to make her and and the other teachers feel comfortable expressing themselves in a test setting. That I was able to ask the right questions to get them to continue speaking and sharing. But of course, it could also mean that I didn't seem like I had any competence to handle a class of school children. It could also mean that I lacked the gravitas to be able to control 30 screaming kids at any given time. I guess I'll never know what she meant by that, but I guess that's okay.

Thursday, October 20, 2016


So the other day I was thinking about what to talk about with my students and my brain suggested "why it's important to be polite". After that popped up, I immediately interrogated the thought with another question, which was "is it important to be polite?" followed by "what is politeness? How is it different from respect? Why does society value politeness?" I explored it within my own brain and below are some of the thoughts that I was able to scrape up. Mind you, I am no authority in this matter. I didn't even bother googling it, showing you how much of a pemalas I am. So take and leave from it what you will.

I think that at the core of my understanding of politeness is respect, and because I already talked to my students about respect, I didn't want to be redundant. If we already have respect as a concept, why was politeness a necessary concept to introduce into our language and our understanding of the world?

When I think about respect and politeness, I think they're similar but not the same. Respect comes with it a certain gravitas that I can't quite put my finger on. It's about recognising other people as equal human beings and treating them the same way one would want to be treated. When I think about politeness, I think about people being submissive, silent in the background, and about conforming to other people's expectations of you, like the respect you have for the other party exceeds the amount of respect you have for yourself. This may be a flawed interpretation, but it's the way I understand it, so I'll run with it for this piece.

To address the next question of why society places a high value on politeness, I could only think that over the years, the concept of politeness has become a socially constructed tool used to maintain the status quo. It is desirable for a parent to maintain the position of power they have over their child, so the child has to be polite towards the parent, and if they're polite, they're good, because then the status quo is maintained and parenting becomes a less difficult task. Teachers desire a certain amount of control over their students, so a polite student is desirable because it makes the teacher's job easier, and the status quo is maintained.

So people in positions of power expect people in positions of less power to be polite to them, and people in positions of less power expect their peers to be polite to their "superiors". That's the way it's supposed to be, and the way it should always be. It's interesting to me that the concept of politeness is used commonly as a tool to help in power relations.

It is rarely expected of people in positions of power in the relationship to be polite. The person who is supposed to be  polite is always the child, the employee, the student, the person in the less powerful position. If a boss is polite to an employee, the boss is hailed as a humble person of the people. If they're impolite, then they're just being a boss. Being polite is, however, is expected of the employee. If they don't abide to the socially accepted rules of politeness, then they're considered as being rude and vulgar.

After typing it out, I hope you understand why I was reluctant to talk to my students about politeness. I ended up talking to them about honesty instead, a much easier value to get behind, in my opinion.

I hope I don't come off as condemning people who value politeness. I try to be polite whenever I can. I was raised to be a polite person, and given the chance, I try to make the people around me feel as comfortable as they can. I'm always on the lookout for social cues as to what peoples' expectations of me might be, and even though I'm really bad at doing that, I do at most if not all times try to come off as a respectful and polite person. It's become a habit of my being, I guess. But intellectually, those are my thoughts on the concept of politeness.

I may be completely wrong about the subject, but at the moment, this is what I think of it. If you feel differently about it, please drop a comment telling me off.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Sijils And Skills

So the other day I was marking a thing called the Borang Rumusan Aktiviti Kelab for some of the students in my school (I am one of the guru penasihats for the school's Music and Culture Club). It's basically a form that teachers use to evaluate students' involvement and competence in any given club. One can get points for their position in the club (whether you were a pengerusi, setiausaha, etc), achievements (whether you entered competitions and won or not) and leadership qualities (whether or not you were punctual, helpful, etc) among other things.

It made me think back to my sekolah menengah days when we had to fill in those forms for ourselves. I got so much of an ego boost from filling in those forms, because in terms of participation and positions, I fared pretty well. Because of my privileged position (I was an anak cikgu, after all), I found myself in a lot of top positions that in hindsight, I don't think I deserved all that much. But at the time, I was an egocentric adolescent (one could argue I remain one) so I felt good riding my privilege-wave and racking up all those points so that I was better positioned on paper to get into good universities.

When I finally got into teacher training (thanks in part to all those points I garnered in the Borang Rumusan Aktiviti Kelab), I was all big in the head because I felt that I was so great because I had all these sijils and pengerusi/naib-pengerusi positions in my certificate-folder.

I was quickly struck back to the ground during the start of the second week of teacher training. This was the first time we met our tutor, Miss Letch. In our first or second meeting, she questioned our credentials and asked what all our certificates were good for, because we had no skills to back it up. We didn't know how to write a paper, we didn't know how to organise people and activities, we were terrible at problem-solving, we didn't know how to speak up for ourselves and for others, we were incompetent, and she showed that to us so that we would wake up from our sweet slumber and understand that all those sijils are supposed to mean more than points.

They're supposed to mean skill-sets. Being a secretary was supposed to mean that one should know how to write letters, meeting minutes and basic documentation. Being a chairperson was supposed to mean that you knew how to conduct meetings, communicate effectively and organise people and acitivities well. Being a treasurer was supposed to mean you knew how to organise money and keep track of expenses well.

I was forced to take a good hard look at myself and admit to myself that I wasn't all that my certificates was cracked up to be. I didn't have any of those skills. I could barely talk to people (girls especially, because I came from an all-boys school). All I did in school was do as I was told and follow orders. I didn't know how to lead (at least not off a rugby field). I had to start from scratch.

She encouraged us to be ambitious. She set goals for us to achieve, goals that - at the time - felt unreachable because we were so unfamiliar with doing more than the minimum requirement. We did a semester-long fund-raising campaign to go to visit aboriginal villages to do English workshops over there. Those were tough times for us, because for almost the whole time, we felt like the thing was unnecessary and unachievable. There was this one time when I was tasked to make bookmarks to sell to people in commemoration of a unique date (I think it was 12:34:56pm on 7/8/09 because 123456789) and it had totally slipped my mind until like the night before the date, so I went to Ms Letch to tell her I forgot and that I didn't think the bookmarks were going to happen. She gave me a talking to, and I was so inspired I got to work, pulled my resources and some friends together and had a batch of bookmarks by the morning time and was able to sell it to people in time. We made a hundred bookmarks and we sold a hundred bookmarks. By the end of the day, Ms Letch was all "See? I knew you could do it!" and I appreciated her so much for that.

Not only did she believe in me, she made me believe in myself, and I am forever grateful to Miss Letch for doing that for me, and doing that for us. We really didn't like it at the beginning. It took us a few semesters to understand what she was trying to do. We were too young and pampered to understand why she did what she did. She didn't seem to really care too much about being the most liked lecturer. What she cared about was that after this set of students graduate, they have the skills and the worldview they need to be more competent workers, leaders and problem solvers. And for that she became into one of my favourite lecturers in the institute. Thank you Miss Letch.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Dignity In Discourse

So a couple of days ago, I thought about a possible incident that might happen in a school that made me think about how teachers affect the worldviews of students, but before I talk about that, I want to tell you that story I thought up.

So some kids were sitting for a test, and during the test, the teachers thought it would be a great idea to run a spot-check on the students to see if any of them had brought phones (the students were not allowed to bring phones to school). The teachers got tipped off by somebody that some students had brought phones to school and felt the need to clamp down on it immediately, while they were answering the test.

At the end of the spot-check session, they didn't find any phones, so they decided that they could rampas other "forbidden" items such as bracelets and hair wax (yeah, I was like "why on earth would you want to bring hair wax to school?" too, but I guess at twelve I didn't really think things through either). That made the teachers feel like the spot-check was somewhat justified, because they reaped a couple of trinkets here and there.

Then one particular teacher started an issue with a student, by accusing that student of bringing a forbidden thing to school. The student of course denied it (because, in all honesty, she didn't bring anything she wasn't supposed to that day). The teacher took offence to this rebuttal, so the teacher called up the PK HEM of the school so that the kid was really helpless (as if she wasn't feeling helpless already).

The first teacher then decided that it would be a good idea to bring up that the student had indeed brought a phone to school, earlier in the year, so she wasn't exactly the emblem of innocence. To that, she had no reply, but still pleaded her innocence at the current moment. The teacher took offence to that expression of innocence as well, taking it as her being "kurang ajar" towards to teacher. The student was bombarded with a lecture, all of the words going into one ear and out the other, but the feeling of loathing and humiliation (because this was done in the presence of all her classmates during a test, mind you) would go on to stay with her for the foreseeable future.

So that's the story. And it made me think about how we teachers need to remember to treat our students with dignity. Because I can admit that it's sometimes easy to get into this thinking and feeling that we are superior to them and because we are tasked with teaching them certain things, we fell like we are the bigger, wiser and better human being, and they are less than us.

I think the language in which we use to refer to the students is super important. We have to try not to talk down to them, as if they were stupid. Sure, finding words to explain a novel concept to students is challenging, and finding a way to explain without the condescension is yet another thing on the list of things we have to think about, but I think it's worth it.

Because the way in which we communicate with the students is part of a chain, or rather, a cycle. The way we talk to children will inform the way the children see fit to treat other human beings, and when they grow up, they think back to when adults spoke to them, and would most probably use that example in speaking to the people that are even younger than them. And the cycle might not have been started by us. Our elders might have spoken to us in a certain way or a certain tone, and we are just carrying that torch forward and are naturally continuing the cycle, but as teachers I think we should take it upon ourselves to be extra-conscious about that cycle and if the cycle is worth continuing or reforming.

For example, if (and I do mean if) our elders talked to us in a certain way that made us feel humiliated and was stripped of dignity, then it would be natural for us to assume (at the time) that that's just the way old people talk to young people, and that's how it's always been and that's how it's always going to be. But I think teachers are uniquely positioned in society to have an extra effect on our students because (if you have a schedule like mine), you see certain kids almost every day, and you have a say in what the students think about how old people talk to young people.

I believe that if teachers start talking to students with dignity and respect, they might get into their heads that "hey, old people talk like this to younger people," and they might carry that forward in their lives and are better able to do that to their kids. At least they have been exposed to a certain type of communication, from which they can pull and model they way they want to communicate with their peers as well as kids.

To do this, we have to sit down and really think about what speaking to someone with dignity and respect would look and sound like. And translate that to speaking to someone who is decades younger than you. The words might differ, but the essence of dignity and respect has to still be there.

And I think a big step that someone like that teacher in the earlier story could take is to always have an objective to any discourse that they engage in. We need to know what we want to get out of the interaction before we start the interaction, and even remind ourselves of that objective throughout the interaction so that we don't stray away from our original niat. We need to be clear that "hey, I'm talking to you right now so that you're clear about this thing and this other thing," and also be clear that we don't come off as "hey, you're a stupid human being and these are the ways in which you are stupid."

I don't think these are easy steps to take, because there's a lot of thinking involved and trying to be honest with ourselves. I'm still struggling with it to this day. But of course being a teacher was never meant to be easy. Let's all strive to reform that cycle and turn it into a more positive, dignified one, maybe?

Saturday, October 8, 2016

National Sports Day 2016

So today was the National Sports Day, and like a good public body, we had a programme in conjunction with that at the school. It was nothing too flashy, just a morning of some exercise and sukaneka. It was alright.

I was in the AJK Gimik Perasmian alongside my friend, and what that meant was that we had to come up with a bit of a show and some aerobics exercises. My friend was better versed at aerobics than I was, so she took on the role of choreographing tens minutes of that (and to her credit, she did a great job) while I took on the role of training three kids for a 90-second pre-exercise sketch. Only while typing this out am I reminded of how the format is not too dissimilar from the format of a boria, where there is a short sketch before they start the singing and dancing. And being in a school in Pulau Pinang, I think that's interesting.

I made the script and selected some Year Three kids whom I was confident would do an okay job, since I've seen them act before in their classes with me. To their credit, they delivered too. It is within my hopes that they continue pursuing acting in the future, because they certainly look like they enjoy it a lot right now.

We spent about a week getting ready for the day, and if I were to judge the final outcome of our work, I must say that we didn't do too bad a job. People seemed to enjoy both the sketch and the aerobics workout (more so the aerobics workout than the sketch, but then again I suppose they weren't expecting the sketch at all). 

After the day was over and done with, my friends (including the aerobics choreographer) and I had a bit of a chat and a quote came up in the conversation. The quote went "Work for a cause, not for applause. Live life to express, not to impress. Don't strive to make your presence noticed, just make your absence felt," and even though that might sound cliché to some, it is rather sound advice that I've been trying to follow for quite a while now.

I think I first heard (or more probably read) that quote several years ago, while I was fresh out of school, so it's been within my consciousness for a while now, and it resonates so much with me that I find it difficult to understand it when people act in a way that contradicts the quote.

I see (and hear of) some people who are really trying to find any avenue they can to gain attention while doing as little substantial/significant work as possible. I see (and hear of) people not doing a beneficial thing just because nobody would be around to applaud them for doing it, or no sijil would be given to them by doing the thing, or they won't get a tangible form of reward for their troubles. I see (and hear of) people taking credit for things they had no meaningful contributions in.

I can accept that not everyone will share the same values I do. I can accept that for some people, other things are held in higher regard than the things that I hold in high regard. I can accept that maybe, to some people, the quote I mentioned earlier doesn't mean anything. And maybe that quote isn't as common a saying as I thought it was, and I am part of a minority that holds on to it.

Even so, I am glad that I have found some people that share my values, at least in this regard. I am glad that we can work together on a regular basis. I am glad that I can call them my friends.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Identity and Persona

So a couple of days ago I talked to my students about identity and how we have more than one of them at any given time, even though we are just one person, one soul, one carbon-based organism (1Malaysia? No. Bad joke. Down boy).

I told them that everyone has multiple identities. For example, at that moment, they were a student in the class. At the same time, they were also a friend to their classmates. And a child of their parents. And a brother/sister to their siblings. And an et to their cetera.

And I guess I talked to them about identity because I was (am) having a hard time with it as well. Some of you might know that I am currently talking on two podcast on the regular. For those who don't, one is the Buah Mulut podcast which I usually host with my wife, and the other is the Mentol Pecah podcast in which I regularly get on to talk to the real host, Muzakir Xynll aka Mozek.

And in one of the episodes, Mozek talked about persona and how a comedian or a rapper has a persona and uses them to their advantage. It got me thinking about my persona and what my identity was as a person, but mostly as a performer. Like, Eminem has a persona that's a nasty person who doesn't give two effs about anything. Kendrick Lamar has this Compton good kid trying to find his way in life kinda thing going on. Louis CK is a divorcee with two kids that says a lot of disturbing and taboo things.

It made me ask "what am I?" And to be frank, I don't have an answer to that. I just don't know.

When I write songs, I'm desperate in finding things I want to sing or rap about. When I write articles, I'm desperate in finding what I want to write about and how I want to write about it. When I think about doing comedy, I think about what would I want to joke about and how I would joke about them. After typing all that out, I come to one main question: what about me is interesting?

Because a persona is a way of being, it's an identity. And, as I've said before, I have many identities. I'm a son, I'm a brother, I'm a husband, I'm a dude, I'm a teacher, I'm a writer, I'm a music fan, I'm a movie fan, I'm an et cetera.

What about these identities of mine is interesting? How may I look at the world through my existing identities and present my point of view to people in an engaging manner?

And the answer is still: I don't know. Thing is, I don't find myself to be a very interesting person. I'm pretty vanilla in every way that I can think of. I'm not particularly well-read about anything at all (even in the thing that I have a degree in, I only have cursory knowledge of). I'm a dilettante. A pretender. And a half-assed, uninteresting one at that.

I understand that the struggle is in finding out. I can't just say "pfff, aidono" and leave it like that. I need to find ways to look at myself, possibly look into myself and find a thing about me that I don't hate. And I have a feeling that that's going to be super tough. But once I find that thing, I can latch onto it and find a brief sense of fulfilment. Here's to hoping that I find the thing.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

A Thing My Headmaster Said

So my school replaced its headmistress with a new headmaster, and about a week ago (week ago), we had our first official staff meeting with him. He had a list of things to say, and he said them without dilly-dallying a whole bunch. I appreciate that very much.

Like I said, he mentioned a number of things (be in class when it's your time to be in class, pakai nametag, etc.) but one of the things that he asked of us teachers was to start each lesson with five minutes of talking about morals, values and the such.

This was a bit of a revelation for me because throughout my education as a teacher, we had always been taught that the first few minutes of a lesson was supposed to be set inductions (which is basically a thing a teacher does or talk about or show to the students to get them interested in the coming lesson). The headmaster addressed that, saying that yes, set induction was important, but he still wanted us to try to fit in a talk about values and morals before the lesson started.

His reasoning was that kids today don't have a lot of guidance in that regard, and if it didn't come from the teacher, then who else was going to talk to them about being decent human beings? (I'm paraphrasing, of course)

Yes, we were taught to instil values and morals during lessons while we were in teacher training, but it was never an explicit thing. It was supposed to be weaved into the lesson, or probably end up being a post-lesson pep-talk. This guy was talking about a pre-lesson pep-talk. And as I'm typing this out, I know it doesn't seem like a big leap of imagination, but it was for me. Because – as a long-time reader would recall – I am a mediocre teacher, and these small things appear big to me.

So I tried doing that in class. Every time I have entered class this past several days, I came in and started my hour with each class with a talk about being a decent human being. I didn't know how to do the "kalau kamu buat benda ni, kamu jahat. Kalau kamu buat benda tu, kamu baik, dapat pahala., masuk syurga" speech, so I tried to get the students to start thinking about things.

The very first topic I tried to talk about was respect. Spent a good five minutes trying to talk about respect and how it can manifest itself and why we would want to respect others and how we would do that. Earlier today I talked about self-awareness to eight-year-olds. I even talked about the concept of discipline. I hate that word.

Or rather, I hate what it has turned into. Or better yet, I hate what school has used the word for. It's always been used by people in positions of power (ie teachers) against those who were in positions of less power (ie students) to control them. The word has been thrown around to mean that if you obeyed and did what you were told, you were good and disciplined. And if you didn't, you weren't. And being an undisciplined human being was simply unacceptable to my old teachers. If you were bad, or did something bad, you would be dikenakan "tindakan disiplin", and that was definitely bad. So the word has always meant – to me at least – physical/emotional abuse.

So in talking about the word/concept, I got myself and the students to think about what the word meant, why it was important to them and why it was important that they had it. And I tried my best to tell the students that there was such a thing as self-discipline. That discipline doesn't come from a cane; it comes from themselves, ourselves. That some of them already have it when they baca doa makan before they eat without anybody asking them to do so, or when they put a piece of trash in the garbage bin without anybody telling them to. That they could be the masters of their own discipline.

And by telling them that, I hope that they grow up to have a more positive view of the word than I did.

Now, you would think that talking to eight and nine year old kids about these things is ridiculous, right? That they're too high-faluting for a child's brain to process. At least, these were my reservations about talking to them before I did. I worried that they wouldn't get it. That they wouldn't pay attention to what I was saying. That they would continue making noise in the class the whole time I'm talking about those things.

To my surprise, the kids responded positively. At least, most of them did. More than I expected, for sure. They were attentive. They listened to what I had to say. They answered my questions when I asked. Several maintained eye contact with me throughout my talking about those things (which was a little bit of a surreal experience for me, to be frank). So that's encouraging. For me, at least, because now I can continue down this path of talking about ideas with the students and helping them think about things that I was never invited to think about when I was anywhere near their age.

So this is a bit of a thank you post to my new headmaster for putting this idea in my head. It feels great doing it, and I feel like I'm doing something positive for once (I rarely feel that way about anything I do). So thank you.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Typing Out Loud

So in a couple of days I'll be participating in a bit of a talky session thingy about self-expression with the wife, and like good organisers, the people running the event gave us the questions that we'll have to address a week prior to the event so that we could prepare. 

They're interesting questions in the sense that I've never received them before, so I know that I will personally have a tough time articulating the answers come crunch time, so I'll brainstorm some stuff here to have some sort of an idea of what I'll say on the event day itself. So here goes.

1. When did you start to really express yourself?
Tough question. I guess I've been expressing myself ever since I could remember. I a particularly fond memory would be the time when my friends and I made up a fictional chain narrative amongst each other in class while we weren't paying attention to what our teachers were saying. They were weird stories involving digimon, space pigs and professional wrestlers.

But I guess the question is, when did I really start to express myself, and I guess the question means when did I start expressing myself on purpose. And I guess the best answer I can give is when I started blogging. That was a start to a lot of things for me. Thinking about things and exploring ideas and putting those thoughts and explorations on a page, making them tangible things instead of randomness that was floating around in my head. I don't remember what actually sparked me to want to make a blog, but I do remember what opened my eyes to self-expression, and that was an English Literature course that we had to take in our TESL foundation semesters. Those lecturers taught me how to read poems and stories with a critical eye, and I've been learning ever since. I feel like I've come a long way since then, but I know that I have such a long way to go still.

2. What importance do you see in self-expression?
I think it's a human thing, to express yourself, or at least to want to express yourself, either in the form of poetry or songs or films or stories or even just conversations that we have with each other. We have this innate need to tell other people what is on our minds. Maybe that's hard-wired into our brains or maybe that's just me, but I feel like everyone wants to share stuff that's in their heads with other people.

To me, it's a question of whether or not you're aware that that's what you're doing. Once you are, you do it on purpose, then maybe you feel the urge to get better at it. And that's my never-ending struggle for the past several years. Just trying to get better at expressing myself to other people.

But why would you want to get better? Why aren't you happy with just being able to express yourself period? (I added these questions myself)

Honest answer is, I don't know. Maybe it's just my way of keeping myself from being happy. I think I secretly get a kick out of making myself feel inferior and incompetent, because I do that so often it's unhealthy.

Or maybe I want to get better so that I can eventually hear other people say "hey look at that guy, he's so competent at expressing himself in his chosen method of self-expression!" and I'll feel happy about myself when I'm validated like that, feeds my ego and stuff. Maybe. I don't know.

3. How did being able to express yourself change your life (or didn't)?
I think it opened my eyes a lot more. I feel like I notice more things, nowadays. Things that I probably wouldn't have noticed when I wasn't expressing myself on purpose. Like, I wouldn't have been able to appreciate sarcasm as much as I do now if I didn't use it myself as much as I do.

And I don't think I would be able to appreciate a lot of other art too, like songs. I write the odd song every now and again, and it has allowed me some insight into the amount of work and creativity that it takes to produce songs, and I feel like I can appreciate (or not appreciate) certain songs with more certainty now compared to back when I didn't engage in the act. I can say things like "man, that must have taken SO MUCH WORK to get done!" or "nikhirim malaih gila dia ni buat lagu camni ja," just when listening to stuff, because I have an insight into what it takes to get those things done. And that goes to other forms too, like video or film-making, writing, even sports. But of course, like I said earlier, I'm still learning so many things, so I always leave room for myself to be wrong.

4. Do you have a method to build confidence or to shake off nervousness?
I think confidence is one of the bi-products of experience. So whenever I'm nervous as eff or when I don't feel confident before a performance or whenever I'm doing stuff in front of a group of people, it helps to remind myself that I'm super super nervous right now because I haven't done this a bunch of times yet. I'm going to suck at this one right here, and that's okay, because I have to suck a whole buncha times before getting kinda sorta good at it (yes, that's a Jake from Adventure Time quote). And giving myself permission to be bad at something is so liberating, like you wouldn't believe. So yeah, embracing my mediocrity is what I do.

5. What are some common myths about self-expression that you, through experience, have doubts about?
I don't know about any common myths about self-expression, so I had to google it. The results weren't that many. I couldn't find anything relevant in the first page of the search, so they must not exist, right?

All joking a salad, I did find one thing that said self-expression was related to narcissism. I guess you can sort of see it that way in the sense that when you express yourself, you're essentially spilling your guts in the form of your words and thoughts for all the world to see and kinda sorta imply that you're saying "HEY LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME I HAVE STUFF TO SAY LOOK AT MEEEE (noodles)", but I don't know.

I feel like learning how to express myself has allowed me to be more empathetic too. I feel like I understand what it takes for me to produce a certain something and the kind of courage that is necessary to be honest about yourself and your views in a world where conformity is valued so much, that it helps me understand the plight of other people who are expressing themselves too, or at least who are trying to express themselves. I feel like we're all working towards making ourselves understood by other people when we can barely even understand ourselves most of the time, it makes it easier for me to put myself in the skin of other people and try to understand why they see things the way they do and why they express themselves the way they do.

6. What problems do you still face when expressing yourself, and what problems did you experience in the past?
One of the things that I've always struggled with is figuring out what I think. I feel like 99% of the time, my mind is a floating space of nothingness and to extract something, anything out of it requires exertion and effort. So that's always a struggle for me, finding something to think about. Like my videos. I struggle so much with them, because like I said, 99% of the time I have no idea what to talk about, especially when asked to talk about something. It just goes blank.

I go through this so many times. I'd have thoughts and stuff floating around in my head, things that I find interesting, but as soon as I click on the Word icon or the "Tweet" icon, my mind goes blank. Absolutely nothing. All of a sudden I have no memory of what I was thinking so profusely about just literally two seconds ago. And so I scroll through Twitter and think "oh look at all these people that have interesting stuff to say" and wonder how they did it.

7. How did you manage?
I still don't know. I think saying it aloud helps. And nowadays I like to record myself on the phone using the voice memo app thing on the phone. Most of my voice memo stuff are random melodies that sometimes come into my head and I hum them out to the phone so that I don't forget them in five seconds.

I also started an idea bank about a year ago. It was during a challenge I made for myself to write everyday on my blog (what a failure that turned out to be), but I feel like that helped. I needed to catch myself in a train of thought and quickly jot them down and save them in my twitter drafts so that I can go to my laptop later in the day and read from those drafts to know what I was going to write about that day. That idea bank thing was super helpful because sometimes I would have five thoughts a day, and somethings I would have zero thoughts a week, and being able to extract one idea a day from that bank was super helpful in getting me to write so much more than I had ever written before. But like everything I do, I stopped doing it at a certain point because me and consistency are like oil and water. I should probably start that again.

8. What's your advice to people who are afraid to express themselves?
I would have to ask first, why are you afraid? What are you afraid of? If it's that people are going to laugh at you, then chances are, people don't really care. All people care about is themselves, and if you're not directly affecting them in any way, then express away. if you're worried "what will people say about me?" or "what will people think about me when I do/say this thing?", chances are, those people are asking the same exact questions to themselves. Everybody is worried about their own selves, so don't worry about them. They're already worried enough about themselves as it is.

If you're afraid that nobody will care, then I'll probably borrow Bo Burnham's words: If you can live your life without an audience, you should do it.

Because if I've noticed anything about self-expression and stuff, things have a way of finding their own audiences. They might be small, or they might be weird, but they're real, and they're supposed to be there. Care more about the quality of your product than what other people think about it. Because if you're happy with what you've made, then you've already gained one fan. Yourself.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

What You Need To Know Before Buying A House

So a couple of weeks ago, I made a video about the preparations one has to go through before investing in property. You can check out the video here:

As I said in the video, there are a few things that we need to find out about before going on our journey towards purchasing property. 

One of the firsts steps on that journey for most of us is getting a loan from a bank in order to buy that house. Now, when we go to the bank, they won't just give is money willy-nilly. They take into consideration a few things, namely these four: your Debt Service Ratio, your risk profile, the price of the house you intend to buy, and you Loan-To-Value ratio. What we'll be discussing in this blogpost is the Debt Service Ratio, or DSR for short.

Whoa, that sounds highly technical! What does that mean?

DSRs are basically a percentage. Some people are have a 50% DSR, other people have 60% DSR. The percentage basically shows how likely or unlikely it is for you to be able to pay back your loan to the bank. The lower your DSR percentage, the better, as it shows that you have a higher chance of paying and lower chance of not paying your monthly repayments.

 But how do I know how much my DSR is?
Good question. I'll walk you through how I get to know my own DSR.

For convenience's sake, let's say that I get a monthly income of RM3000.

Firstly, I add up all my monthly payments that I have to make.
Rent (RM300) + Car repayment (RM550) + Phone Bill (RM100) = RM950

And then I add to that the amount of money I would have to pay every month if I were to purchase the house I want. Let's say that's RM1050. So,
RM950 + RM1050 = RM2000

Next, I divide that number with my monthly income.

RM2000 / RM3000 = 0.66

Finally, I multiply that number by 100 to get my DSR percentage.

0.66 x 100 = 66%

So that's my DSR if I wanted to buy a house that required me to pay RM1050 every month to the bank.

And that's it, really. To wrap it up:
1. Add up all your monthly commitments.
2. Add to that the amount you will pay every month for the house.
3. Divide that total with your monthly income.
4. Multiply by 100.
5. That's your DSR.

Remember, the lower your DSR is, the better your chances of getting a loan from the bank to buy your house. Aim for getting below 60% DSR, as lots of banks take that as the typical cut-off point.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Merchant (PART 2)


Veena reached a hand into her bag and looked for her doodle book that she always carried with her. As she was looking for it, it suddenly went dark.

For a small moment, she thought that she had somehow gone blind, as she could suddenly hear screams from where seemed to be the inside of her head, but then she heard Amar’s voice saying “Alah, blackout ke?” and she heaved a sigh of relief.

It seemed as though the whole campus’ electricity had been cut off. Even the street lights were dark. Being a campus that was a considerable distance away from the nearest main road, they couldn’t see just how badly the area had been affected. All they knew was that the cafeteria and all the buildings around it was out of electricity.

“Haiz, at time like this got blackout also ha?” She asked almost to herself.

“Okay lah, we postpone meeting lah kan?” Amar suggested while standing up, bag in hand right after the ruckus of the group died down a little. He probably wouldn’t be able to continue watching his Running Man episodes, so he figured he’d probably go out for shisha with the boys.

“Hey, cannot! We need to prepare the performance! Don’t got time already!” Shirley rejected the motion, looking to what looked like the silhouette of Amar.

“Yeah, we should probably find somewhere else to continue the discussion,” said Hani into the darkness of the cafeteria. Their eyes were adjusting to the darkness and they could make out each others’ faces in the dark now.

“Okay, so where should we go?” Jasmin inquired.

“Hey, is it just me, or has this cafe gotten really quiet?” Rafiq suddenly asked.

The group fell silent and tried to listen for all the other people that filled half of the cafeteria with them just moments earlier. 

Pin-drop silence.

“La, phone ada torchlight, guna ajalah!” Amar said while taking his phone out of his pocket. To his horror, his phone was dead. “Alamak, takdak bateri plak, Fiq, suluh tengok!”

Rafiq took out his phone and pressed on the home button several times. Nothing. His phone had died on him too. “Phone aku pun habeh bateri!”

Everyone else at the table quickly took out their phones and checked too, only to find out that all their phones would not turn on for them.

“Okay, this getting really creepy now! Let’s go out of the cafeteria first,” Shirley was trying her best to keep calm, but she knew that she was failing.

“Yeah, let’s just go outside,” Hani said while putting her bag strap over her shoulder.

They left the table and headed for the door.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Merchant (PART 1)

"Merchant was suggested by Muzakir Xynll. Thank you.


“So who’s going to be the merchant? Shylock? Shylock kan?” Amar’s voice rose above the commotion that was wont in the campus cafeteria as he addressed the rest of his group members. He intended to get the meeting done as quickly as humanly possible so that he could go back to watching Running Man. He just jumped on the bandwagon three days ago in order to impress his Facebook crush who was a big Running Man fan, he found out, and he was still on season 2. He had a lot of catching up to do.

“Yes, Shylock,” Veena chimed in as she fanned herself with her floral-motif hand-fan. The warmth and humidity of the cafeteria had always bothered her, which made her want to get out of there as soon as she could as well.

“Wait,” said Shirley, raising her hand so that she was noticed, “shouldn’t we pick which scene we want to do first before we assign the characters? What if we lastly pick a scene that Shylock never have, then how?” 

“Yeah, betul. So which scene we want to do?” Jasmin had to raise her voice to levels higher than usual for her to be heard by the whole group.

At this point, Rafiq, Hani and Wida flipped through their Merchant Of Venice textbook, seeming to look for a suitable scene.

“Alah, pilih ja whichever scene pun, the easiest one to do, kita buat kerja senang!” Amar put his hand on the table since he didn’t bring his textbook.

“Cannoooot like thaaaaat!” Shirley turned to face Amar. “This is 30% of our marks okay? You think what?” Her grip on her textbook tightened as she was saying this.

Amar sighed. He forgot that he was in the same group with Shirley, of all people. “Okay la, faster choose which scene want to do!”

“I think we should do the scene in the, apa tu? Courtroom? When the trial is happening, where the pound of flesh thing is said,” Hani put forth her suggestion.

“Ha, Madam Ros suggest that one too, right? We can try that one,” Shirley opened her textbook and looked for the scene.

“Tengok, pilih scene yang ada Shylock gak. Aku dah tanya dah awal-awal tadi kan?” Amar said silently to Rafiq while rolling his eyes, to which Rafiq shook his head to show his agreement with Amar.

“Okay, so in this scene got quite a few characters, so we can choose. We want to choose on our own or draw lots or how?” Shirley said while examining the script in the textbook.

The group went quite for a little while before Shirley said, “We draw lots la ha? Easier like that. Veena, you bring book or not? Can do cut the paper to draw lots?” as she gestured to Veena sitting right beside her.


Looks like I'll need to spend a little more of my time on this one. To be continued.

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