Sunday, August 30

My Nationalistic Awakening


Kepada Semua Warganegara Malaysia...
Selamat Menyambut Hari Kemerdekaan!
To all Malaysians, happy Independence Day!

I look upon this year's Independence Day with great patriotic fervour.
I am grateful that every Malaysian citizen still has some say in how the country is to be run & I am glad that Malaysia is currently experiencing the teething struggles of a truly democratic country.

I used to be a neutral I-don't-mess-with-you you-don't-mess-with-me jaded indifferent uninterested inhabitant of this country.
As long as I can make a living & enjoy life, I don't care who wins the elections.
The only politicians I could name were merely Mahathir, Badawi & (recently) Najib.
Heck, I wouldn't even bother to register to vote.
Neither would I read about current events.. I'd just go straight to the comics or football news!
But all that has changed since my nationalistic awakening.

I would prefer not to comment much on the current political situation of the country lest I draw unwanted affection from certain parties.
But I will say that the political fuss & muss of controversies & allegations occurring this year has held my interest captive.
I love a good story with a good twist.
All the complexities & ulterior motives in the latest season of the Malaysian political drama has given me a lot of excitement!
I cannot wait to see what unfolds in the next episode!

Soon, I started paying more attention to current events in the mainstream media.
Then, I started reading about the same current events from the alternative media.
Currently, I have already registered to vote.
In the future, when the time comes for me to put my patriotism into action, I will do so without hesitation.

For patriotism is not in back-biting, arguments, protests, bloodshed or war but in the pen & paper during balloting day.
That is where every citizen's true power lies.

The highest level of patriotism is displayed when we use our power to choose representatives that will serve the best interests of our country.
Have you registered to vote yet?

Wednesday, August 26

Information on Victoria University of Wellington by a Malaysian Alumnus for Prospective Malaysian Students

I have recently received an email from a prospective Malaysian student of Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand.
In this email were relevant questions that any student should ask to better prepare themselves before flying all the way there.

I have decided to share my reply here because I think that there are many other people in the world who may be seeking similar information...
This is written specifically for middle-class students from Malaysia who will study on Victoria University of Wellington's Kelburn campus.

Any past or present student of VUW are welcome to comment & add to this post!

The University

On the satelite map from google maps, I've highlighted Kelburn campus in blue & Wellington CBD in red.
Ask you can see, the university is very close to the city centre so you dont have to worry about transportation or food when you get hungry.
They are about 10-15 mins walk from each other.

Be aware however, that it is a steep uphill walk from the city towards the campus.
Do make sure you have comfortable walking shoes or flip-flops (Both cheaper in Malaysia).
Having climbed the Kelburn campus slopes every day to get to class, climbing stairs or walking long distances in Malaysia will be nothing but a breeze!
Consider the 10-15 min walk your daily exercise!
=)


The People


taken from totaltravel.co.nz

I've visited other parts of NZ but I still think that Wellington is the best.
When I was in other parts of NZ, I felt like I was in Asia. It was all hustle & bustle. There were also many people of Asian origins moving up & down the streets & inhabiting the buildings. I didn't pay an arm & a leg to fly all the way here just to get back into Asia!

Wellington has a diverse & wondrous blend of people groups. There is an equal majority of Maori (the indigenous people) & Pakeha (white foreigners). There is also a minority of other ethnicities like Indians, Koreans, Japanese & Chinese. It is only in Wellington that you get to experience New Zealand's melting pot of culture. Get to know the different people groups & be fascinated as you learn about their cultures.

The people in Wellington are amiable & very approachable. New Zealand is probably one of the friendliest countries in the world!
Usually the person sitting next to you on in class or waiting at the same bus stop will greet you with a customary "How's it going?". Please don't look confused & answer what's going where. It's a question that enquires on how your day has been.
The question is a polite gesture & sometimes people will get back to what they are doing.
Those who want a chat will carry on by talking about the weather or asking you where you're from.
Be brave. Enjoy the people. You don't have to speak perfect English. You're not expected to.


Clothings

taken from guardian.co.uk

The weather in Wellington is divided into 3 seasons: windy cold, rainy cold & sunny warm.
You will experience sunny warm the most during summer (around Nov-Feb).
The rest of the year will be a combination of the three but mostly windy & igloo cold.
You should prepare clothings suitable for the weather.

Umbrellas are a waste of money. The winds will make sure that you get wet.
Besides, you'll either ruin it or get blown all the way back to Malaysia.
I kid you not. The winds are that strong.

Bring your summer-wear from Malaysia.
Bring your best tops, skirts, dresses, shirts, t-shirts, shorts, a fashionable hoodie & a good pair of jeans.
These things are cheaper in Malaysia.

Never buy your warm clothing from Malaysia.
You can find more suitable ones at discount prices here in Wellington.
One of my favourites is Kathmandu along Willis St.
They make awesome thermals (warm underwear), rain coats & sleeping bags.
They have massive discounts twice a year in Feb & Aug.

Don't be miserly when spending on warm clothing.
Remember: Save now... freeze later!
Be prepared to spend $200-300 on a good jacket & $100-200 on a good raincoat.
Instead of a 2-in-1 waterproof tramping jacket, I would recommend that you get a jacket & a one-size-larger raincoat that can fit over the jacket. This will give you more variety in the clothes you have to wear.


Part-Time Jobs


taken from hr.wayne.edu

Wellington is a student city.
Most of the workers in the city are students & employers are more than happy to hire students because they're cheap, they work hard & they don't complain much.
Therefore, if you have the time & think that you can manage, I strongly suggest that you get a part-time job to open up other possibilities to your lifestyle like travel & extra money.

Jobs come in 3 lengths: long-term, short-term & one-off.
The names are pretty much self-explanatory.

The best place to seek student jobs is Student Job Search.
Register with them & visit their branches for the latest jobs.
You can also look them up online but by the time it gets up on the website, someone may have already taken it.

You can also look in newspapers, bulletin boards or online agencies.
Some establishments will put up a notice at their front door if they're hiring.
Keep your eyes open & you might just land a great job!

I have worked several different types of jobs in the city.
I've been a promoter, typist, chef, barista, waiter, cashier, labourer, surveyor & etc.
I have found that, generally, Wellington employers are very generous & considerate. They are willing to provide encouragement & listen to feedback.
If you're happy, they get extra money!

However, be careful when you seek employment with an Asian employer.
I don't mean to be racist but there are many incidents where employers with an Asian background have cheated employees.
If you are not happy at your workplace or if you are underpaid, quit.
There are many other better jobs out there waiting for you!

Keep in mind that you are there to study.
So, if your work is affecting your grades, make the necessary adjustments!


Student Accommodation


taken from victoria.ac.nz

The student halls with Victoria University of Wellington are generally commendable.
Find a list here.
Halls may be more expensive but they are a stepping stone for every new student.

The first few months is when everybody makes friends, so make as many of them as you can. Student halls are full of new students, so you'll have a higher chance of making friends there.
Halls will also organise games, events & get-togethers throughout the year.
They are doing it with your money so make sure that you do attend them.
While you're there be friendly, have fun & make some new friends!

Here are a student's categorisation for the halls:
Quiet halls: Education House & Stafford House & Te Kotahinga.
These are halls where students are known to be quiet & private people.
Happening halls: McKenzies Apartments, Cumberland House & Victoria House.
These are halls where students are known to be more lively & nocturnal.

After your first year, I would recommend that you move on to private housing.
This is because renting a house or apartment with a few close friends is WAAAAAAAY cheaper than staying in a student hostel!

Houses or apartments usually free up during summer time so that'll be the best time to arrange for a viewing.
Be sure to act quick because good places usually get taken up really quickly.

Try to deal directly with the owners.
Avoid having to deal with real estate agencies because they usually ignore students.
Students have got a bad reputation among realtors.

Look in local newspapers, online or the VUW Accommodation Service bulletin board for advertisements.
A good listing website would be TradeMe.co.nz.
Also, use these tips from the Accommodation Service to make your stay a pleasant one.


Groceries


In the Wellington CBD, there are 3 supermarkets from the New World supermarket chain (just like our Carrefour supermarkets).
The biggest one is on Wakefield St, the New World Wellington City.
There are two smaller New World Metros on Willis St & at the railway station.

New World is not the cheapest.
The cheapest would be Pak'nSave.
But the closest one is in Kilbirnie.
You'll have to take a 10-15 min bus ride. Hardly worth it if you don't have a car.

There are also 24hr mini convenience stores called 'dairies' (just like our 7-Eleven stores).
There is a list of them here.
Diaries are where you get snacks & necessities when you can't be bothered to walk all the way to the supermarket or if it's late at night.
Btw, they serve delicious warm pies. They're awesome but they'll make you fat!

List of necessities that are cheaper in Malaysia:
- toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, soap & etc)
- electronics (computers, laptops, cables & etc)
- condoms / tampons / sanitary napkins


Food

taken from rajukofoto.com

Sad to say, there are no 24hr Mamaks in Wellington.
Most stores close by 5pm. Restaurants close by 10pm.
If you get the munchies at 12am, you're out of luck!
Remember to stock up some food at home!

It is of course cheaper to eat at home but if you ever have the desire to dine out, there's no better place to do it than Wellington!
There are plenty of restaurants in the city. You will be spoilt for choice.
Turkish, Western, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Korean, Malaysian. You name it, you got it!

It's not cheap to dine out though. Be prepared to spend $20++ for a meal.
Drinking water is free & it's fine to just have water in a restaurant as long as you order something to eat.

To ensure that you do not spend your hard-earned money at a horrible restaurant, check out dineout.co.nz for restaurant reviews by every day people like you & me. (I used to write some reviews under the pseudonym 'koko')

For the students on a budget, there are also lots of takeaways that serve cheap awesome food!
My favourite budget places are an Indian takeaway on Willis St (around #248), Korean Country House in Manners Mall & KC Cafe in Courtney Place.

Malaysian restaurants I recommend are Satay Kampong & Istana Malaysia (the bosses there know me!)
Other places you must try: exquisite Japanese food @ Kazu Japanese Restaurant, pizzas @ Piccolo Italian Pizzeria, yam char @ Regal Chinese Restaurant, steaks @ Crazy Horse Steakhouse, Curry Laksa @ Satay Kampong, Lamb Curry @ Istana Malaysia, fruit gelato @ Kaffe Eis, crepes @ Crêpes à Go-Go & croissants @ Le Moulin Bakery.

Wellington is also the espresso capital of the world!
This city has the highest concentration of cafes than anywhere in the world!
Walk down any street or turn a corner & you'll definitely find a place that peddles fresh steaming espresso coffee!
When in Wellington, YOU MUST TRY THE COFFEE!!
Take your pick of flat white, latte, cappuccino or mocha.
My favourite is a latte made with Illy Coffee.
Most of the cafes prepare great coffee. Stay away from Starbucks or Coffee Bean.

New Zealand is a wine producing country & you will find that wines are very cheap in Wellington.
Go to any supermarket & you can get a bottle of decent wine for $20.
NZ produces really good white wine while the reds are just decent. Australia produces more flavourful reds.
My favourite NZ winemakers are Church Road, Matua, Kim Crawford, CJ Pask & Lawsons Dry Hills.
Take your time to give the different wines a try. Then, you can choose your favourites!
Look out for 2007 & 2008 wines. I hear that the grapes are at their best during those years.

Healthcare

taken from canadorec.on.ca

If you fall sick, there is a student clinic on campus that you can go to for free.
The cost of your medical consultations will be covered by your student insurance (which is compulsory for international students).
However, the place is very busy. Do call first to make a booking.
There is also physiotherapy, counselling & other healthcare services available with the Student Health Service.

The Wellington hospital is free too but it is very far away in a suburb, Newtown. You'll need to take a bus.
Keep in mind that medical fees are very high in New Zealand so go to a private establishment only when there no better options.


Conclusion

Remember that International Students are as valuable as gold to the university.
We pay exuberant fees which are exuberantly accepted by the university.
If you have any problems or issues, don't ever be shy to seek help.
For anything & everything you may need help with, there is a department in the university that is specially formed to assist you.
All you have to do is just ask.

Finally, let me say congratulations on being accepted.
Not only will you experience quality education provided by some of the most professional educators in the world, you will also be in a place where your minds will be broadened & your experiences diversified.
Wellington as well as New Zealand as a whole have got a lot to offer you.
Go out and grab hold of every opportunity!
All the best!

Saturday, August 22

Air Travel During the H1N1 Season

It's the holidays!
Since it's the holidays, there will be unquestionably more people travelling on planes, buses, boats, taxies, trains as well as spaceships.

Just like it was today when I took a ride on the bus back home to Kuching.
The Air Bus station was full of domestic & international travellers who (just like me) can't wait to get the hell out of this H1N1 sharing heaven!


adapted from here

Being the well-read highly-educated quality citizen I am...
actually, it's because I am kia-si (takut mati / scared of death) la ok...
I read up on the precautions I should take before I embark on this brave journey through virus land.
Besides referring to the website of the Malaysian Ministry of Health, I studied other websites on H1N1. For example, websites from the CDC & Wikipedia.
I wanted a more complete picture of what to do & what not to do during my adventure.

As I was waiting impatiently for the far from punctual Airasia plane to unload, be cleaned & refuel, I noticed that there were many doctors & nurses waiting in line.
Was there some kind of emergency?
Oh, wait! They're not doctors! Oh, hahahahaha!
How silly of me!

I just smiled as I saw Uncle, Auntie, Ah Tong, Ahmad, Apu, Ah Lian & Asmah putting on surgical masks as if their lives depended on it.
Well, whatever gives them peace of mind...
Because that's all that they're going to get.
Putting on masks does nothing more to protect you from H1N1 than me trying to pinch my nose to protect my dinner when someone farts in the room.

Face masks only provide a placebo effect.
(BANG! Big word right there! I bet many of you need to refer to a dictionary!)
Only respirators can completely shield & protect you.
Face masks will not be able to keep the micro aerosols which contain H1N1 from getting into your respiratory system if you are actually exposed to it.
I suddenly feel sorry for all those fools who bought 20 cent face masks at 1 ringgit each!

Learn from this Chinaman. Work smart. Save money.
See what I do. You do oso, ma! Okay?
Good!

The #1 thing I reminded myself constantly was do NOT touch anything.
If I don't have to touch it, I won't!
I didn't touch any chairs or doorknobs or windows. Not even the hot air-hostess that's giving me the eye!
Gosh, I wouldn't even touch myself!
Especially not my eyes, nose, mouth or face!

I also washed my hands as often as I could.
I would pop into the toilet before I got on the plane & after I got off the plane.
I don't have hairy or sweaty hands, my hands are actually quite supple & soft.
I don't have H1N1 neither & washing my hands will prevent any of those little buggers, that got onto my hands from something that I touched, from getting into my body.

This is a video from the CDC on proper hand-washing.
When you wash your hands, wash it like your life depends on it.
It does.
Wash it thoroughly. Wet your hands. Rub with soap for at least 20 seconds.
Finally, dry with a paper towel or blow dryer.

REMEMBER DON'T TOUCH ANYTHING!!!!

Once you get home, shower & put all the clothes you were wearing into the washing machine.
After that, you can finally satisfy that itch you've been having to dig that waxy stuff out of your nose.

Now, if you don't mind...
I'm going to quarantine myself from work for 1 week.
Happy Holidays!!

Tuesday, August 18

Can't Wait For This Week To Be Over

HOLIDAYS!!!!!!!!!
Holidays! Holidays! Holidays!
Futsal! Sleeping! Chilling! Movies! Shopping! Lazing!
No students! No duties! No cooking! No cleaning!
I can't wait for this week to be over!

All my life, I've looked forward to the holidays.
OMG!
From childhood until adulthood I'm still in school!
Should I be ashamed of myself for not moving on to an office or courtroom?
That's a question for another blog post.
Right now, I'm all for the holidays!

It's the joy of doing whatever you want whenever you want.
The sweetness of freedom.
The freedom of choice.
It's all just a few days away!
I can't wait for this week to be over!

It's even more awesome that this 1 week holiday is adjacent to Merdeka day.
I get one extra day off! WOO!
I can foresee many teachers happily celebrating Merdeka day this year.
Everybody celebrates it in their own way.
As for me, I will celebrate it sleeping in bed.

After living on my own for half a year, I finally understand why some grown men still choose to live with their parents...
Because everything is provided!
The house is clean. The food is cooked. Everything is free!
I'm taken cared of when I go home...
HOME SWEET HOME!

To all the students & teachers out there, Happy Holidays!
To all my Muslim friends, Selamat Berpuasa!

Wednesday, August 12

How To Make Your Examinor Adore You

Today, as I was marking Form 2 exam papers, I noticed that this particular girl had written something different on her answer sheet.
Everything else was written with a blue pen but one particular sentence at the bottom of the first page was written with a pencil.

"I'm sorry teacher because I cannot write this letter."

I couldn't help but imagine the look on this adorable adolescent girl's smooth face as she was writing this.
She was probably hiding her face in bashful embarrassment!

awwwww~~~
At that moment, I couldn't help but adore her & wish that I could hug her.

At the end of the day, I wrote an encouraging reply.

"At least you tried!"

When I evaluated her letter, I wanted to give her extra marks to further encourage her.
Then, I realised that I should actually be a cold professional...
So I gave her the measly 7 out of 30 marks that she deserved for a letter with the correct format but little substance.

For all the hard work I put in trying to educate her, her apology was actually quite apt.

hmmm...
Maybe it's time to penalise students who have not apologised!

Thursday, August 6

Can You Not Be Quiet?

Today, I gave my students some exercises.
They were quite restless & were pretty chatty.

After several individual rebukes & prompts for silence,
I resorted to addressing the whole class...

Can you not be quiet?!!

To my surprise, they answered...

YES, TEACHER!!

And then the whole class went on to obediently do their work in complete silence.

I stood there for a moment... dazed & utterly confused at their rude answer.

..................................

It took me a moment to realise that they did not understand the rhetoric of my question.
All they probably heard was...

CAN YOU #@*&$% BE QUIET?!!!

I love my students...
They're just so adorable!
=)

Sunday, August 2

When Urban Meets Rural

***LOW BANDWIDTH WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS A LOT OF PICTURES***

Urban met Rural this weekend...
And they fell in love.

Top Form 5 students & senior teachers from SMB Tiong Hin visited SMK Katibas last weekend.
They were very fortunate to arrive at a time when rain was scarce so the water was shallow.
Besides getting to ride an express boat & a long boat for the first time, they also had the opportunity of getting off the longboat boat at shallow places to continue on foot until the water gets deeper.
Some of them had to push the longboats when it got too shallow.

Upon arrival, they were given the Katibas trademark welcome.
Who wouldn't feel welcome when every member of the school was lined up to greet you?

The principal of SMB Tiong Hin, Stephen Tan, gave the academic staff of SMK Katibas an in-house training on the attitudes of a teacher & he encouraging us to go the extra mile with our students.
The students from SMB Tiong Hin spoke to our prefects about their school & how they help run it.

There was also a sharing session between teachers as well as PMR & SPM students from both schools.
The teachers exchanged tips & techniques for the classroom while students exchanged tips & techniques for the exams!

Every morning, the principal of SMB Tiong Hin, being an experienced athletics coach, would coach our coaches on high jumps, hurdles & javelin throws.
His expertise helped clear some misconceptions & polish the techniques of our athletes.

On Saturday night, we put on a show for them.
Obviously, there were cultural performances by our dance troupe.
They have gone a long way since the first time I saw them at the beginning of this year.
This was the best performance I've seen so far.
They have managed to go from height to height in polishing their presentation & coordination every time!

The school aerobics team also performed a really entertaining rendition of the ever so popular Poco-Poco dance.
The girls & boys looked so pretty with the make-up on.
It's the prettiest I've seen of all of them.

Of course, the students from SMB Tiong Hin were not left out.
They taught our students several chants & claps, sang a sweet Chinese song & performed a few magic card tricks.
They had something different to bring to the table & our students lapped it all up!

On Saturday morning, our guests were taken for a visit to an actual Iban longhouse.
As you can see, the longhouse has recently been reconstructed to incorporate both concrete & wood.
I was surprised to see such a modern & neat longhouse.

The longhouse isn't the only thing that caught my eye.
The natural scenery from the longhouse was just breathtaking.
I stood there for hours just taking in the fresh air & greenery.
Simply magnificent!

This is Galau the Tuai Rumah (head of the longhouse).
He is very friendly, hospitable & responsible.
His is always happy when foreigners come to visit.
He really made everyone feel at home.

Every visitor had to scoop a mixture of egg & clear liquid from one bowl to another.
I do not know the significance of this ritual.
Anyone care to enlighten me & my readers?

Fortunate for us, there were durian trees nearby & durians were in season!
Many amongst us were durian fanatics. Not me.
You can see it in the way they sucked, licked, scraped & gobbled up all the durians gathered for them.
Considering their love for the fruit, there were obviously pictures that were too obscene to be shown on my blog.

When everyone had their fill, we set off for a long trek through a virgin forest!
It's my first time trekking in a virgin forest.
And it's the first time the 'virgins' from SMB Tiong Hin had ever ventured into a virgin forest too. (Actually, it might have been the first time they've been in any kind of forest.)
Oh, that 'virgin' word has got such an appeal!

We followed a river & had to constantly wade through water.
I did the whole 3 hour trek barefoot!
The stones did hurt my feet but I think it's good therapy.
'Go Barefoot' achievement unlocked!

We also had to do some climbing & descending.
Some were steep, like really really steep, but it was not a problem for the Iban climbers who moved like mountain goats.

What was the trek for? Here is your answer.
No pain, no gain.
We walked & walked to get to a small waterfall & to have some slurpy wet free-fall fun!
It was low tide so the waterfall was reduced to a mini-fall at the left side of the stone wall.

It was wonderful. I leaped twice.
With a life-jacket on of course... coz I cant swim but still want to play, mah!

On the final morning, the whole school did some aerobics with our guests from SMB Tiong Hin.

Look at these SMB Tiong Hin teachers.
100% concentration. 100% coordination.

The students from SMB Tiong Hin clearly had a blast!
As you can see, our aerobics team was quite the entertainer...
We had our guests jumping for joy!

Our school is along the Katibas river & it is a must to have a dip in the river when you visit!
There is a perfect spot behind the school where teachers occasionally have picnics & barbecues.
The backdrop of greenery & clear skies also make for a sanctified healing place for the troubled urban sole.

There was a little bit of everything for everyone.
From treasure hunters looking for dinosaur eggs to girlfriends playing group games to the laid-back lazing in the currents to the avid reader looking for a serene reading to the amateur photographer looking to polish his skills.

In pursuit of thrills & spills, many of the students (and teachers) attempted the flip.
But I think this guy has perfected it.
I bet you do too.

The only reason I put up this picture is because I am in it.
After taking photographs of everybody, I finally appear in one of them!
haha~~

From my observations, this visit has achieved its desired effect.
Both urban & rural students needed to have their minds & hearts opened up to the infinite possibilities & differences in life.
The rural students learned a lot about academics.
The urban students learned a lot about heart.

Both sides were crying when one had to leave.
A large majority of our students (without any kind of prompting) escorted & carried the bags of their guests to the boats.
The Ibans learned Mandrin.
The Chinese learned Bahasa Iban.

It was heart-warming to see two groups of people from different backgrounds feeling so intimate & concerned for each other.
This is true integration. A rare display of unity regardless of race.
The children have shown me the way.
Adults should follow suit.

Any schools or corporate bodies looking for an out of this world experience?
Just drop me a comment or email!
Our school would be more than happy to have you because it would be just as enriching for us too!

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