Thursday, 13 September 2018



Nami Island

We took a few trains to reach Gapyeong train station in Chuncheon. From there, we rode in a taxi to go to the Naminara Republic jetty which was only 5 minutes away. We paid around 4000 won for the fare. I was pleasantly surprised to see children's book and animated series by two Malaysian writers and illustrators, Haslam Anuar and Azzah Abd Rahman, being displayed on the the TV at the jetty. Actually, Nami Island is famous for publishing children's books and conducting workshops and activities for children, the writers and the public themselves. Several Malaysians writers including the famous ......... are regular visitors and participants there.

The ferry ride across Han River took about 10 minutes. There were a lot of tourists around. Even though it was already March, the weather was still very cold and we could see remnants of snow on the grounds of Nami. All the tourists clamoured on to the snow-covered ground to play with the ice and more importantly, to take selfies and wefies!

Nami island is beautiful and serene. It is actually a man-made island in the middle of Han river and made famous by the drama Winter Sonata. The winter scenery was awesome and when the temperature droped below zero, even the river would freeze and harden! Just imagine the scenery in Autumn colours...

It is easy to find halal food at nami. There are a few restaurants / cafes that serve halal food. You can try the nasi goncang served in a hot aluminum container and pancake / pajeon there. We went to another restaurant this time and we tried a few dishes like seafood noodles, bibimbap, rice with bulgogi and japchae.  They were yummy! Kimchi was a side dish but not many of us liked it because of its sourness. The soup was a bit bland too... :P

After lunch, we prayed at the Musolla located in the same building of our restaurants. There was quite a long queue for Wuduk since there were so many Muslim visitors that day! After spending a couple of hours exploring the beautiful island, we headed back to Seoul where we went to the DDP Plaza where the LED flowers are. I am sure they llook pretty at night! When we reached there, it was evening and it had started drizzling...

We hurried to the Dota Mall where we bought a lot of souvenirs to take home. the price ranges between 1000 Won to 50,000 Won.... There were so many cheap souvenirs to choose from including those that I liked - bookmarks, hand mirrors, linen bags and purse, metal spoons and chopsticks, cute socks and t-shirts!

Dinner was at Jyoti Indian restaurant near our guesthouse which also serve halal food. We ate delicious biryani, curry and naan breads. My friends preffered the Indian meals to Korean food so we would return to this restaurant again for dinner... Besides, It is only about 200 metres to our accommodation.

So, that ended our second day tour of Seoul! It was cold at night but we went back to our rooms which were warm and comfy..... Good night!  :)

Monday, 27 August 2018

Back to Seoul again.... Departure Day and Official Day One

What can I say? I am addicted to South Korea. This would be my 4th trip to the capital city. But this time, I'd be travelling with my colleagues! The discussion actually started last year since several people showed their interest and asked me if I could be their group leader. From 10 it went down to 8 then finally to 5 excluding me. We even managed to rope in a teacher from another school. After much negotiating on dates and people, we finally agreed on 16.03.18 to 21.03.18. Marlinda and I finally bought tickets with Air Asia while charging my laptop at McD Alor Mengkudu. What a havoc it was then because I had to key in all the colleagues' data one by one, before attempting a few times to buy the tickets online using my credit cards.

We decided to use Seoul Wonderlust Tour Agency to save time and also to manage our Halal food requirements. They are on Instagram. After paying deposit, I settled all the remaining cost before our flight date. I communicated with cik Ain through Whatsapp but once we arrived, we were met by her sister, Ikah who would be our guide for the next 5 days. They are based in Seoul and it is a family affair who brings tourists to Seoul, Jeju and Busan. Highly recommended!


All six of us - Kak Zaiton, Kak Hafizah, Kak Fatimah, Marlinda and her hubby, Muhammad Shukor and myself - started our trip early that morning by catching a flight from Alor Setar to KLIA2. Our next flight was at 2pm-ish to Incheon International Airport and we would get there around 10pm. I think we would go straight to our Guesthouse after that. The flight was full. The majority were Koreans and Malaysian tourists, whom we would bumped into several times during the next few days! One drawback of my flight was the tasteless same food (both ways) that came with the pre-plan pack purchase. I have learnt my lesson well. No more pre-plan pack after this!

When we arrived, the weather was still cold. it was quite late so we had to rush to ride the Arex train to Hongik University Station (an hour ride) before changing to another train to get to Sinchon Station. From there, we walked and dragged our luggage to our guesthouse which was nearby. The Gaon Hostel is only 5 minutes to the subway station. No dinner tonight, because it was late and Ikah had to hurry back alone so we went to bed rather hungry that night. We were too tired to go down to the kitchen or go out to the convenient store which was about 100 metres from the hostel!

The rooms were basic with floor heater, air-conditioner, tv and an attached bathroom that was quite 'unique'. I had to climb the barrier to go into the bathroom which had a high-rise floor. The kitchen was rather small and we had to take turn with other tourists to use it. They serve bread and jam and there are also a microwave,  coffee machine and a water dispenser. Every morning, before our daily trips, we would assemble there and had our maggi mee and instant Brahim's rice and sambals. We even managed to exchange Hellos with a couple of tourists from Japan and even Malaysia!

17.03.18 - Day One

Our first destination were the Gwanghamun Square and the Gyeongbok Palace. The weather was fine but rather cold for March. There was a memorial exhibition at the Square commemorating the tragedy of Sewol Ferry in 2014. It was a topic during my MUET lesson and I was thankful to be able to visit the solemn exhibition... Yellow ribbons were everywhere...

We managed to watch the Changing of the Guards  ceremony at Gyeongbokgung live. The music and the drummings were exhilirating! Many tourists were also attired in traditional clothings. After exploring and selfie-ing, we went passed the National Museum to get to Hanok Village near Samcheondong.

Even though this would be my 4th visit to Seoul, I hadn't had the opportunity to explore the Hanok Traditional Village there. So, this was our third destination. There were so many people dressed in pretty Hanbok, with matching bags and hairband. You can rent it hourly or daily. Or you could pose in it for free at Korea Tourism Centre, just like what we did... There are many steep paths and alleys around the village and people still live there so tourists are advised to be quiet not to disturb the local residents... One feature that caught my attention was the intricate designs of the old main gate of each house. I would have liked to visit a real Hanok to see the inside of it.

We had our lunch at Halal Kitchen in Samcheondong, a new eatery owned by a Korean muslim, catering especially to Muslim tourists. The place was packed so we had to wait for a little while before we were seated. The food was super delicious! Japchae was excellent, spicy fried chicken was good, bulgogi and bibimbap were authentic and yummy. Highly recommended! The Samcheondong area itself was lined up with many small artsy shops and boutiques. We bought some cute souvenirs at a reasonable price from a few shops there.


Our next visit was to the Korean Tourism Center at Dongdaemun to experience several activities. There was also a Musolla available for prayers. We donned colourful hanboks and took many selfies and wefies, then we joined an art class where we were given coloured markers to to decorate linen(?) bags, which would be ours once we finished the colouring activity. There were also booths to take photos with 4D images and clips of  popular K-Pop idols and many brochures to collect or read.

Our last randezvous for that day was to the Dondaemun Design Plaza and The Cheongghyecheon stream nearby. The plaza was being prepared for Korean Fashion Week. But alas, we did not spot any celebs. There are thousands of LED white roses around the plaza and I bet it would look spectacular at night! The stream was clean and just lepakking there was refreshing and relaxing.

Before we went back to our hostel, we had to go to Dota(?) Mall to buy more souvenirs! Dinner was at Gosame, a popular grilled fish restaurant at Shinchon. I loved the grilled mackerel, the chilli squids and fried anchovies.  We returned to our hostel to rest and recuperate, with a full tummy. Good night, Seoul!


Saturday, 16 September 2017

Pesantren - Pondok Madani - a religious school with a difference.

Image from :

I have been neglecting this blog for quite a while it seems. it is easy to put the blame on a writer's block. I guess I have run out of memories to write here. Korea, done. Bandung, done. Plymouth, done. I should go travelling again. If only it is as easy (to pack your bag and go) as ABC....

So, I feel like writing about something completely different today. But still on the topic of education.

I am single. I don't have kids. But if I were married and have kids, what kind of education do I want them to go through?

Let say Child number 1. I would like him or her to go to SK and later to SBP to experience all that he can and also for him to develop his social skills. I might rethink the SBP option if it's a boy since he may not adapt well to a boarding school. Since I used to study at MRSM, I feel that a girl would be comfortable and adapt more easily to the culture and pressure of an SBP. I hope the child would further his or her studies locally, or overseas - like what I did eons ago. But realistically, with the economic downturn, a local university seems the best option. After the child has graduated, I hope he can secure a stable job that will sustain his life and future family.

Child number 2. I would like him or her to go to a Chinese school so that he will learn Mandarin and be fluent in it. Since it is hard to get a job now, the best option is to let him have a advantage over other job applicants - a third language. Government jobs may be limited and hard to get, so a job at any Mandarin-speaking company is the second best choice. Being multi-lingual in multi-racial Malaysia has its own advantages.

Child number 3. I would like him or her to go to a Religious or Tahfiz school that gives more attention to the child's spiritual development. Since the parent is not that knowledgeable in Islamic  and Quran studies, I hope that the child would be able to learn and grow under the guidance of a wise and qualified teacher. I hope the child will later become a good human being that gives back to the family and community in terms of Islamic or universal contributions. A mother would be happy to see her son leads the prayer or recite the Azan or even, say a prayer for his family.  I realize that his future is uncertain, by not having a proper or modern education like the other siblings but I believe that everyone has his own destiny and rezeki. Perhaps, he would work as a teacher in the future, or start his own business. Who knows. What is more important at present, is arming him with skills that he can work with. Being a Hafiz is also a worthwhile skill. They are called to aid in many stages of our life - birth, marriage, sickness, death, etc....

The image of a good Tahfiz  that I have in mind is like a fictional modern pesantren in Inodesia, which is the setting of a novel - Negeri Lima Menara by A. Fuadi.  Even though the pesantren, Pondok Madani, focuses on Islamic studies, other curricula are not neglected either. The students there play a lot of sports, learn a lot of English and Arabic through lessons and competitions and are still required to memorize the Al-Quran and understand the content thoroughly. I recommend you to read this book to see the advantages of a religious school if run and planned well... The writer of the book is actually the product of a pesantren but succeeded in furthering his studies in the field of Journalism in USA. You never know where your education can take you.

As I said, this is only my so-called dream.  A wishful thinking on my part. You may or may not agree with me. We all have different perspectives of life, based on our own experiences on this earth. So, instead of criticizing the kids or the parents that are involved in the latest tragedy, let's work together - you and I, the government, the NGOs, the Islamic departments - to ensure that their places of studies  will always be safe for them....

Saturday, 20 May 2017


Teaching is my life...

I returned from UK in July 1997. I started my teaching career in October 1997. I received a letter from JPN Kedah instructing me to report for duty at a secondary school in Kedah but it did not state the name of the school. So, I went to JPN to find out and they informed me that there was a vacancy at SMKTSR Jalan Kuala Kedah. The previous English teacher had just transferred to Kulim after her wedding.... I was surprise because I thought I might ended up in another district. It wasn't easy to get a school near your house. It is about 15 minutes by bus. People asked if I had a 'large' cable but I told them it was pure luck!

This school was quite familiar to me since I had done my teaching experience here in 1996. The girls in my area would study here while the boys went to SMKTL. Later, many girls and boys studied at the new SMKSP.  The common public transportation for the students was the Kuala Kedah public bus which came every 15 minutes. Since I did not know how to drive or ride a motobike, I had to resort to using the bus as my main mode of transportation to and from school. I chose the 6.45 am bus than the 7.10am bus to avoid the heavy crowd. Still, the bus would be full, carrying students to SMKTL, SMKTSR, SMJKKH, MM, SMKSNC, SAS and KSAH. My students were my busmates. This went on for about 5 years - rain or shine - before I could actually afford to buy a Proton Iswara and also get a driving license.

I like the fact that SMKTSR is an all-girl school. The school compounds looked pretty and neat, even though it is quite old. It only contains single and double-storey buildings. It was opened in 1963 under the name of SM Perempuan Telok Chengai before it was offcially opened by YTM Tuanku Abdul Rahman in 1968 and the name was later changed to honour his wife, Tun Sharifah Rodziah.

My first Principal was Miss Mak Sooi Jee who used to be the Principal of SM St Nicholas Convent, Alor Setar for many years. Her Senior Assistant was the late Hj Hashim Samin. They made me the Head of English Panel even though I was a greenhorn! After Miss Mak retired, she went on to teach at Sim Min Private School.. I wonder if she is still teaching there... She seems to be in good health. Altogether, I have worked under 9 Principals, all female of course. Arwah Shariffah Asma Syed Ahmad Barakbah passed away sometime this year. Al-Fatihah...

The next Principal was Pn Faridah Abdullah, followed by Pn Hafdzah Ahmad, Pn Azizah Nasan, Pn Ishah Saidin, Pn Rahmah Yusak, Pn Rogayah Talib and the newest Principal who came to this school on the 3rd of May this year, Pn Che Rokiah Md Isa, whose house is located just opposite the school...! We seem to change  our Head quite often. Perhaps it is because the school is a popular transit before they retire or have their post upgraded. Different Principals have different style of administration but all of us try to adapt to the new style as best as we can and move forward together.

A teacher is also many other things. My roles have changed, increased and evolved during the last 20 years. My happy moments include getting APC twice, finally getting dg44 and later dg48, managed my Meranti Sports House to victory, seeing my ex students becoming English teachers, getting C2 in the CPT test, being the English lang. Emcee for HAC and District level drama competition, accompanying students to represent Kedah in KL for Celcom Youth Contest, being involved with MUET Speaking Test and ULKCP as an examiner, bowling with colleagues, and accompanying the sixth form girls on university visits, to name a few........ 😉

On a personal level, I was delighted to be offered a free trip to Seoul, Korea by the Korean Tourism Organisation in 2015. I joined 13 other international winners for 3 nights, 4 days travelling around Seoul, and Gangchon. It felt surreal. Kamsahamnida KTO and Hana Tour, and my Korean-mad chinggu- Vera from Singapore, Tere from Indonesia, Lucky from the Phillipines, Nat from Thailand and also the Japanese and Taiwanese winners..

2015 also brought sadness to my family and I when my dad passed away... He was a teacher for more than 30 years. I wonder, would I be able to match his experience and knowledge...? Al-Fatihah...

Most of the teachers in SMKTSR have known each other for more than 10 or 15 years so we are actually a strong and close bunch of teachers. It could be quite difficult for a new staff to adapt to our school culture but as time goes by, he or she will fit in comfortably.... Insha Allah. Our favourite shopping and travelling destination is Hatyai but ever since Ringgit is down, Hatyai seems so far away now...

The English Panel consists of friendly, happy, ceria teachers - led by Mastura and the previous head, Mazlina. Liyana is the youngest but in a few years she would be ready to take over the post. Puspadevi and Chuah Bee Lan are our senior sisters. Datin Izzatul, as we call her and Marlinda are responsible for the youngest forms while yours truly is known for being the only teacher who studied TESL in UK but love all things Korean.  Alhamdulillah.... Our English panel is always lively. I am grateful for the friendship and I hope it will last forever. Some of our English teachers who have retired or transferred to other schools include Pn Nurul Aznim who is now the Senior Assistant at SMKAJ, Pn Mimi, the owner of the famous  original Rojak Mak Bee, Pn Lim Siew Kah, the late Hj Hashim Samin, Miss Mak, our ex-Principal, Pn Hidayah Rushdan, Pn Fazlina Shuib, whose post I took over, Pn Lilian Wooi, Pn Chye Siew Chen and Pn Daisy, to name a few. Two cheerful and hardworking trainees were also with us temporarily - Nasharil and Siti Fatimah. Forgive me, dear colleagues, if I have accidently missed out some names...

I moved to my own house in Mergong in 2009. My family now lives with me. The old house in Kuala Kedah stays empty. Its fate is still unknown. Now, I drive my Almera to school everyday. I usually arrive quite early, before 7.00 am. It is a habit that I cannot break. i guess things would be different if I were married and had small kids. Cest la vie.

My first batch of sixth form students were in 2003. Many of them stayed in the hostel where I was a warden. That brought us closer and since everything was new, we went through it together. They are now working, they are somebody's wife or mother. So technically, that makes me a 'grandmother'.. ;) I love teaching MUET to the sixth form girls because they are young adults who feels more like a sister than a daughter. The age gap then wasn't that big before but now, I am probably closer to their mother's age.

One sad fact was that later, a student by the name of Rohaya, met with an accident and died. Years earlier, the teachers got together to help her further her studies in UMS. This act of kidness was led by Pn Azizah, who is now teaching in Kuantan. Other sixth form teachers who used to teach here  include Pn Siti Aminah, who is now back in Johor, Pn Puziah who has retired, Pn Supiah who is now at SMKHK, Pn Mashitah who is in SMKAK, En Azman who is now a lecturer at IPDA, Pn Fatmawati who is now in Trengganu, Pn Nor Shuhada who is now the Principal of SMKAJ, En Ahamad Fauzi who has retired but is still painting and drawing actively, Pn Husna, Pn Shobihah, En Ahmad  and Pn Azilah, who no longer teach Sixth Form. How I miss our old days together... At present, the sixth form teachers include our new PK T6 Pn Nooriani, Pn Azura, Pn Azira, Pn Chuah Bee Lan, Pn Lily, Pn Lim Choon Shiang, Pn Rodziah, myself and the three gentleman- En Mutalib, En Nasrul and En Sharuddin.

We are actually waiting for our fate. This school is phasing out sixth form to make way for a single-session school since we don't have enough classrooms at present. I wish we have a new academic building, a new hostel and a proper field... Our 'middle-age' school is also in dire need of re-wiring and refurbishment...

Will we, the sixth form teachers, end up at SMK Hutan Kampung or SMK Tunku Abdul Aziz or remain here, in SMK Tun Sharifah Rodziah until we retire? Only 2019 will tell.....

Rodziah, Azira, Lim, Nooriani, Mutalib, Nasrul, Sharuddin, Jasmidar, Lily, Bee Lan, Azura

Wednesday, 26 April 2017



I was glad that I was not the only one going to UK to do TESL at the young age of 18 years old. There were 30 of us altogether, with half going to Bognor Regis in West Sussex while our group was destined for Plymouth, Devon.  When we arrived, our seniors were already in their 3rd year. Throughout our stay there, more Malaysians came and went as they completed their postgraduate studies there. We also welcome a few batches of TESL Twinning Programmes trainees from MPIK Kuala Lumpur. At Marjon, we were surrounded by many International and home students.

My mates and I spent 6 years together. We went through thick and thin and supported each other like sisters. Most were of the same age as me except for a few girls who were one or two years older but everyone was on first name basis with each other. We laughed, we cried, we got angry, we sulked, we regretted our words and actions, we forgave one another and we were good friends again. Some secrets were shared, some were hidden until we came back to Malaysia, some we lost contact with, some we still haven't met, some turned up for mini reunions but almost all still keep in touch through social media groups.

I am the only one from Kedah. I studied at MRSM Kuantan for 5 years before going to UK. Now I am teaching MUET to sixth form girls at SMK Tun Sharifah Rodziah, Alor Setar. I have been there since October 1997! I did my Master's degree at UUM and graduated in 2008.

Yana hails from Perlis.  She married a fellow Perlis man but now they reside in Dungun, Trengganu as she lectures at UITM. I have met most of the girls except her. She rarely came up north now since her parents have passed away. I miss you, Yana. How your girls have grown!

Mas comes from Temerloh, Pahang.  She met her future husband in UK, Zaman. Now, she is an active member of BAKAT at TLDM Teluk Sepanggar, Kota Kinabalu. She is a proud mom of 3 boys and 13 cats at present! She has completed her MA and is a teacher at a secondary school in Sabah. She is an avid runner and has climbed Mount Kinabalu with her family.

Zeti is a Kelantanese who used to study at Zainab School, Kota Bharu. She met a French-Algerian and later they got married and now they have 3 beautiful kids who are multilingual - Malay, English, French and Arabic. She used to live and work in Algeria before settling down here in Malaysia and is now a manager at ELS centre.

Nikki is also a Kelantanese. She has done her MA and used to teach at a secondary school before marrying her British hubby and now resides in Cornwall. She met him online. They fell in love. The rest is history. She divides her time between her work at Exeter university  as an admission officer and the beautiful garden around her house.

Amy is from Taiping, Perak and is the only child in the family. I think she is the most ladylike in our group back then. She probably still is. She has a pretty daughter. She is now a lecturer at USM and has completed her PhD. She just moved to a new apartment in Penang after many years travelling to and fro from Taiping! That is pure dedication, Amy...!

Ija is also from Taiping but is now living in Penang. She has also completed he PhD and is now teaching at Penang Matriculation college. I salute this independent mother, wife and career woman whose husband is based in KL. She balances her career and her responsibility towards her 2 daughters and 1 son well. Ija is the only one who got first class degree from Marjon.

Tara hails from Seremban, Negeri Sembilan. She did her PhD in New Zealand and is now a lecturer at UNITEN and is also an avid jungle-trekker, cave explorer and hill climber. She is married to a Kedahan. Her three children are impressive.

Niza who comes from Ipoh, Perak is also married to a Kedahan. She is teaching at a secondary school in Rawang and has done her MA. During our studies, I discovered that she had the largest vocabulary in English among all of us. She would use low frequency words often when the rest used common everyday words. I admire her for that. I am happy that she has a son.

Za comes from Kajang. She is a lecturer at UPM and has completed her PhD. She has three children and the daughter is also the spitting image of her. She met her hubby, Ijan in UK and their wedding was the first among us TESLians. She was probably the most hardworking girl among us. She would leave for the library early in the morning and would only come back in the late evening. We all wished she got a first class degree...

Kecom is from Johor Bahru, Johor. She is the tallest and slimmest! She is now a lecturer at UKM. She met her hubby in Australia while pursuing her PhD. Her wedding in JB was our first big reunion.

Jida is from KL. She left the education field to work as a PR. She is currently free-lance and also an agent for Public Mutual. She has an adorable daughter who spends her time between nursery, her grandparents' home and her mom's apartment. I think  Jida is a strong, independent, single mother.

Siti is from PJ, Selangor. She used to work for EON before leaving for Corporate Comm. She is now attached to the Energy Commission. She is a mother of two cute boys with big hairs (not anymore, I think - the hair, I mean).

Leen hails from KL but now lives in Mauritius after marrying her hubby. Her two girls are the spitting image of her hubby and herself. She regularly updates her FB, showing her busy life there. She has completed her MA and now works as an HR manager there. She wishes she could come home more often.

Yati Aziz, from KL,  is currently M.I.A. We think she is living in UK.  We always wonder about her life. I hope we will meet again some day.

Tharu is our course mate from Maldives, along with Iku and Fatmath. Since Tharu lives in Malaysia now, we manage to keep in touch and meet up for reunions. She is now a busy mother of two. Her husband, Jalal, accompanied her to England during her studies. We envied her for this. She is famous for her spicy tuna balls which she serves during Hari Raya and other special occasions.

Kak Jay is our Malaysian senior who did her Master's degree and PhD at Marjon. She likes to cook and regularly fed us. This is one of the reasons why she was popular among International students, especially a certain handsome Uruguayan student who clearly looked up to her.... She is now a Professor at UNISEL after leaving UKM.

There are many other individuals whom I met there whose friendship I valued. I have lost contact with many of them but some I have met again on FB... :)

Thank you, chinggu, for your everlasting friendship and love. I heart you guys!

First row - Tony Wright
Second row - Sue Parker, cikgu Midad, Yana, Jida, Katy Salisbury, Mas, Tharu
Third row - Niza, ..... Yati, Za
Fourth row - Kecom, Siti, Tara, Ija, Amy, Jane Spiro, Zeti
Fifth row - Liz Robbins, Leen, Nikki


18.03.2018 Nami Island We took a few trains to reach Gapyeong train station in Chuncheon. From there, we rode in a taxi to go to the...