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

Sunday, 16 April 2017



The view of Fal River in Falmouth
 (Google Image)

 As part of my TESL course, I had to complete 4 teaching practices, 2 in UK and 2 in Malaysia.

Part 1 : 1-week experience in a primary school in Plymouth
Part 2 : 2-week experience in SMK Tun Sharifah Rodziah Alor Setar
Part 3 : 1-month teaching practice in Falmouth School, Cornwall
Part 4 : 3-month teaching practice in SMK Sultan Abu Bakar, Kuantan

The map of  Falmouth in Cornwall ( and Plymouth in Devon )

Part 1

All of us TESL trainee teachers started our practical training at a primary school in Plymouth where each teacher was required to teach a few different subjects. Team teaching was a common practice there. We were assigned different classes and were asked to teach English and also to introduce certain aspects of Malaysia to the young students. Our finale was presenting  and teaching traditional dances and songs to them. We even brought telekung, baju kurung and baju melayu for them to wear as part of our introduction. We even prepared some food for them to try. The kids were curious and willing to try anything. At first, they were quite shy and distant but after a few days, the ice was broken. They were inquisitive and asked a million questions. They had no problem in speaking their mother tongue but had some problems in writing and reading. It was an area where we could offer some help. This experience had opened my eyes to the importance of class management and discipline. It was an area that I definitely need to improve...

Part 2

During one semester break which lasted for 3 months, we returned home to Malaysia for a long holiday and also for our teaching experience (it is called ROS nowadays) in a school near our homes. So, I decided to do my practice at SMK Tun Sharifah Rodziah, Alor Setar for 2 weeks. I chose it because it is an all-girls' school. Little did I realise that I would be coming back to the school as a permanent teacher and staying there until today. Our lecturer from INTEC, Liz Robbins, came to Malaysia to monitor our progress. She went to all the schools in various states, including Kedah. I was planning a lesson for her to observe but at the last minute, my lesson was cancelled because the school was holding a religious celebration for all students. I had to apologize to Liz for cancelling the lesson and offered her to observe me the following day. Unfortunately, she had to go to another state and we said goodbye after I had taken her around the school compounds. I taught lower secondary students back then and they were definitely different from the kids in the Plymouth school. The SMKTSR girls were shy and less interactive, even though they were of similar age. They had low to medium English language proficiency and I had to use both English and Malay in my class for them to understand. I also made friends with the other teachers there, especially the English teachers there. After I finished my short stint there, the principal offered me a temporary position if I were to come back again. I thanked her for the offer but that was to be my last practice until 1997, when I came back from UK for good and started my career at this same school. This was pure luck. No cable whatsoever.

Part 3

Marjon is a well-known teacher training college, especially in sports. All students had to undergo teaching practice or TP at a school around Devon or Cornwall as part of their courses. The education officers there had selected some school for us TESLians to do our TP and even looked for accommodations for us to stay. Norhaniza and I were chosen to go to Falmouth School in Falmouth, Cornwall and we would be staying at a farmhouse in Flushing, Cornwall. We had to ride a boat early in the morning to cross the Flushing river to get to Falmouth town and be ready to return by 3pm or 4pm in the afternoon. The boat ride was an adventure but the farmhouse was definitely a challenge for us! The landlady informed us a few rules for us to follow and most were okay except for one. The house heater was set to a certain temperature and we could not turn it up or down. We discovered on our first night there the coldness had seeped into our bones. Even several layers of clothes could not protect us from the freezing cold of the night. So we made the decision not to return to the house the week after. We had to inform the college of our situation and they were willing to find us another house in town. Thankfully, they found us an accommodation near the school. The landlady was friendly, (and so was her cute dog. We did our best not to accidently touch it and kept the door to our room closed all the time. ) She would serve us breakfast, it was either bread, cereal or kedgeree... rice, served with smoked fish. Yummy.

We were given a class each to teach Literature. There was no English language subject like in Malaysia. Activities were planned around the events in the book chosen. We also observed other teachers at work. In one class, which was held in the ICT room, the students were busy writing  fictional newspaper reports on the computer, about the feud between the Capulets and the Montagues. Some classes have a teaching assistant (ancillary) to aid the special needs students.  She would be sitting beside the child throughout the day and helped him or her study. I recall the day when I was observed by my lecturer. During that particular lesson, I was feeling very anxious because besides my lecturer, the teaching assistant and the original teacher were also present...! Alhamdulillah, the lesson went well and immediately after it, my lecturer, Sarah North and I reflected on the lesson. There were some good points and also areas that needed improvement. Besides teaching Literature, I also had to introduce Malaysia to the students since most kids here didn't know much about this country. All in all, it was a rewarding experience that offered me insights into a different approach to teaching and learning. We didn't have a lot of time to discover Falmouth since the time not teaching was spent mostly on planning and preparing the next lesson... t'was a pity.

Part 4

My final TP was in the summer of 1996, in SMK Sultan Abu Bakar, Kuantan for 3 months. All of us were assigned to a few school but we managed to rent a place and stayed together. It was a shoplot which had been renovated into living quarters. There were some good and bad memories there which I would rather not say here. This would remain our little secret, my TESL friends... 😂

SABS Kuantan

I was asked to teach form Four and form Six students. That was the only time I taught co-ed classes. For the past 18 years or so, my clients have been females and 3/4 of it has been spent on teaching the sixth form girls. My mentor was Pn Wahida who had helped me a lot throughout my TP. I remember she had to teach Literature to a student outside school hours because the subject was not offered at that school. I wonder where she is now. I wonder if she has retired...?

I had two supervisors. The first was a lecturer from Semambu Teacher Training College who came to observe my lessons. Unfortunately, he was not pleased with my methods and the way I wrote my lesson plans. You see, back in  the UK, the lecturers there were not very rigid and they did not ask us to write our lesson plans in detail. So, I became a bit disheartened and upset. It was my own shortcomings and I was thankful that I eventually passed the local supervisor's evaluation later.

The other supervisor was our own college lecturers who took turn to come to Kuantan for a month to monitor all of us. They were happy to be in Malaysia. We often spent our weekends at Telok Chempedak beach together to relax our mind and ease our tension.... I felt more at ease with them compared to the local lecturer. Perhaps, it was because we had known them longer and was on first-name basis with all of them. But, I was happy to meet several teachers at that school who took us under their wings and treated us like their younger sisters. We spent time shopping and dining together. Their friendship certainly helped reduce the awkwardness and first impressions. You guys are in my Doa tonight...

Since we were in Pahang, we managed to squeeze in some time to go travelling to Tasik Chini with our lecturer, Dr Katy Salisbury. Masliza was our unofficial guide since she hailed from Temerloh. We visited the Orang Asli village by riding a sampan. We tried the Sumpitan and chatted with the villagers. On the way back, we stopped by at a restaurant in the middle of nowhere . I was shocked to discover that the price for a plate of nasi goreng was around rm6.00. Remember, guys - this was still 1996. Not 2016.

Dr Katy Salisbury
(Image from

Now that I have experienced both systems of education, I can honestly say that each  has its pros and cons. One thing I really like in UK is that teachers can wear anything they like to school, as long as it it decent. Here in Malaysia, there are guidelines that we teachers must follow. How I wish I could just wear trousers or jeans and blouse to class instead of baju kurung most of the times... :p

Friday, 14 April 2017



I always looked forward to Hari Raya back in Plymouth. I think I had celebrated raya without my family for 5 years.... Instead, I would celebrate Hari Raya with my Marjon friends, my Plymouth Uni friends and my Plymouth CFE mates whom I still keep in touch with until today.

Our reunion dinner last year.....  The Marjon families have grown!  ( Literally and figuratively..hehehe)

Our  Malaysian friends from Plymouth CFE and Plymouth University

Photo from Irman's FB

Ramadan was easy during winter but harder during summer. The reason being fasting was shorter during winter and we usually broke our fast around 5pm where it was already beginning to get dark. In summer, we could be fasting until 8pm or 9pm.... We took turn to cook dinner and if we had to break our fast during class, we would prepare a light snack first like sandwiches, chocolates or fruits. Then after class, we would go back and start cooking. My specialty was fried pasta since it is easy and fast.  ;)

At first it was strange to see other students on campus eating but after a while, we adjusted to the situation. Fasting wasn't very difficult since the  balmy weather made it bearable. The cold made us forget our thirst. But the cold also made us crave food like chocolates at times...  :P

                 Photo by Rose Ariffin @ Na'e....

When it was near Hari Raya time, I would start blasting Lagu Raya from my cassette recorder / player over and over again. That was when I missed my family the most. I would leave my window open and so, Sudirman's , Saloma's and P. Ramlee's songs could be heard by people walking passed my village house.... On Hari Raya and a few days after that, I would play the recorded Takbir Raya continuously to ease my longing for my family. The takbir heard in UK is just not the same as the one heard in Malaysia. The latter suited my situation perfectly. 

We performed Terawih prayer from time to time in an annexe in the college. It was too far to go to the one in the city centre. Our Terawih prayer depended on whether the Imam was available. One year, our Imam was an International student from Yemen, if I am not mistaken. His name is also Ramadan. After prayer, we would have a small more, consisting of hot tea or coffee and some kuihs or snacks.

The college would usually grant us a day off for us to celebrate Hari Raya. On that  raya morning, we would go to the designated place in town to have our special prayer. One time it was at Plymouth Uni hall and at another time, it was in unused old church. The gathering was an eye-opener for us. We met Muslims of different backgrounds and races and we were the only ones wearing telekung for the prayer. The Pakistani  and Bangladeshi women were in their colourful punjabi suits while the Bosnians were in t-shirts and jeans. But, regardless of our choice of clothing, all of us prayed in the same direction towards one God. 

After prayer, there would usually be a small feast shared by all. Usually, an Indian restaurant run by a Muslim would prepare rice biryani and some sweets for those attending. Then, we would disperse and return to our college or visit a Malaysian family  who organised an open house for other Malaysian students. This was the time when we could taste the raya delicacies like sate, rendang, nasi impit and cookies. This was also the time to wear baju kurung and baju melayu. We also visited the CFE and Plymouth Uni students at their houses and ate some more.

The Marjon students would also prepare a feast for the Muslims at the college. We would invite our lecturers,  and other Malaysian and International students as well. We would delegate the food to be cooked and later have the feast in one of the annexes. Tharu, our couse mate from Maldives, would make her delicious spicy tuna balls.  Our MA / Phd senior, kak Jay @ Jamilah Mustafa (now a professor at UNISEL), would also invite us to her house since she usually cooked delicious food for Hari Raya. One year, I went to visit my Kurbani boss and his family. They served me Bangladeshi food and sweets which included sweet vermicelli.... that was something new to me since I was more familiar with the savoury fried vermicelli.

photo from kak Jay's FB

Of course Raya in UK was not the same as Raya in Malaysia since we were not with our loved ones and missed all our favourite food. But, we had to make do with what we had and luckily for us, we had close friends and understanding lecturers who helped make the celebration a joyous one. 

How I miss those moments, mates...!  :)

Thursday, 13 April 2017


Today marks the first anniversary of this blog. I wrote about my studies in UK and my holidays in South Korea and Bandung, Indonesia. I hope I will travel more in the near future.

This blog is like a diary that I  share with the public. In the old days, I had kept a lot of personal diaries that were for my eyes only. How things and time have changed.....  :P

My diary collection - from  when I was 13 years old to 24 years old..!

Yesterday, I started a new blog, specifically on English  Grammar notes. I hope they might come in handy for some of you when writing or speaking in English.  I will share more tips on Grammar and the language from time to time.

Do drop a comment here or there...  -  GRAMMAR CIKGU MIDAD

Monday, 10 April 2017


My TESL experience...

Google Image (

Let me start from the beginning.

After I got my SPM result which was not so good, I decided to pursue any course that was related to languages, either English or Malay. I had to choose between the two when filling in the UPU forms. I ended up choosing almost all the English courses offered by the local universities. I figured my chances would be better if I stick to English language or TESL.

I had to attend two interviews, one at UPM and one at PPD Kota Setar. It was during the latter that I was asked the million dollar question - would I like to further my studies in UK if I were given the chance? I was speechless because I didn't know that KPM were sending trainee teachers overseas at that time. My heart leaped for that opportunity but I had to remain calm and confident. I told them it would be an honour for someone like me who came from a small town like Kuala Kedah to study in UK.

I didn't think much about the offer since everything went quiet after that. I decided to put my hope on local universities like UITM or UIA. I even turned down the offer to study in sixth form at SMK Dato Syed Omar.

One day, while I was out, my family received  a phone call from KPM, offering me a place to study TESL at the College of St Mark & St John, Plymouth in Devon, south west of England. For six years! They gave me one or two days to think about the offer because I would be going there quite soon. My family and close relatives gathered to discuss my future. At first, they were reluctant to give the green light since it would cost a lot of money and the tine factor but after much discussion, I was given permission to further my studies overseas. We would be getting a scholarship under Bahagian Pendidikan Guru, KPM and bonded after our studies for 7 years.

I would do two years of matriculation / foundation course and a 4-year degree course after that. The courses were an eye-opener for a small-town girl like me. The college itself was an adventure for me. I got to know and learnt from many wonderful lecturers who insisted being called by their first name. This was something new to a Malaysian student like me. Our group leader was Steve Phillips, or Bapak, to all of us. I was happy to find out much later that he got married to a Malaysian TESL student and now they divide their time between Plymouth and Kuala Krai, Kelantan where my TESL friend is teaching. I remember Bapak took us to the cinema in Plymouth for the first time. My first movie in UK was Edward Scissorhand and the hall was nearly empty . I was used to Cathay and Rex cinema back home where there was only one big screen in one big hall so this cineplex was something new to me.

Our Bapak, with his wife Keloe. 
pic from her FB)

My friends and I (we started with 15 Malaysians and 3 Maldivians) studied a variety of subjects while we were there. In between classes, our lecturers would take us on field trips around Devon and Cornwall. We explored Plymouth on our own. The Hoe and the Barbican are my favourite places. Exeter and Tavistock are serene and so is the scenery along Tamar river. Cornwall is breathtaking and Dartmoor is mesmerizing. St Ives and Newquay in Cornwall are famous for the sun and surf.

The Barbican - Google Image

I recall watching a few plays at a few venues. I loved the live acting and how the voices of the actors filled the stage. I remember watching a Shakesperean play at Theatre Royal. I think it was Twelve Nights. There was also another play which involved the audience. We sat in a circle and the play was done in the middle. Sometimes I wish I live in KL where many plays are staged. It's quite difficult to go watch a play in KL on a school night. I was happy when I could finally watch a traditional musical play during my second visit to Seoul, Korea. I even learnt to play a traditional drum, janggu, before we watched the play. Opps, I seem to digress. Hehe.

We studied papers like African and Asian Literature, British and US writers, Shakespeare of course,  Phonology, Science, ICT, Methodology, School Curriculum, basic French , to name a few... during our 6-year stint in Marjon. We also shared a few classes with the home (British) students. Our classes were located at INTEC where many international students could be seen walking along the corridor, speaking a mixture of English and their mother tongue. Chinese, Thais,Japanese, Indonesians, Indians, Mexicans and some Arab students, most of whom came to INTEC, Marjon either to learn English language or like us, train to be teachers of English. We were actually the last batch of the 6-year Immersion course. When we arrived, our seniors were in their 4th or 5th year.

Our lecturers were kind and accommodating. A few could even speak Malay! (So we had to be extra careful around them, just in case...). One of them was the Director of INTEC, John Burke who travelled to Malaysia regularly since he had ties with the local teacher training institutes. One interesting fact about him that I recall is that he did not wear any wristwatch. Other lecturers included Katy Salisbury, Sarah North, Liz Robbins, Sue Parker, Graeme Burns, Tony Wright, Jane Spiro, Steve Ansell and Rod Bolitho. Please forgive me if I have left out any names here...... Graeme had learnt the art of making tempe in Indonesia and later, he would make some for us Malaysians to buy!  Who would have thought of eating tempe in Plymouth, UK...?! A few of them have retired, like Bapak while some have gone to teach at other institutions. Last I heard, Katy was involved in training the CEFR Master Trainers in Malaysia recently.

Our class usually started at nine and break for lunch at midday. Then it was lessons again until  five in the evening. During lunch, we either had a vegetarian meal at the Cafetaria (money will be deducted from our meal card) or we would go back to our houses in the Village to cook something quick. Like Maggi mee.... :)

We had to do TP or teaching practice four times throughout the course. The first one was a two-week school experience in Malaysia,  next was a-week school exerience in a Plymouth primary school, then a month spent at a school in Devon or Cornwall and the final TP was back in Kuantan, Malaysia for 3 months. These stints require a separate blog entry soon.

The Students' Village  -  Google Image (

But my next topic will be more on fasting and celebrating Hari Raya in Plymouth. During Ramadhan, we sometimes had to break our fast in the class with something light before going back home to cook a proper dinner. Suhoor was an option. Some woke up for it and some didn't. The neighbours had been known to complain about the sound of mortar and pestle coming from our kitchen at 3 or 4 am....!  :P

Every year we would hold Malaysian Night and performed some songs and dances. We would sell tickets and serve Malaysian food to the audience. I remember doing the compulsory Merinding dance. One time we did the Ulik Mayang dance with the 7 princesses. The finale would always be the Joget which everyone would participate. Those were happy and naughty times.. ;)

Exams were taken in a big hall at the Sport Centre with other MArjon students. Hundreds of us would sit for two to three hours in the cold hall with the lecturers invigilating us. We also had to come up with a dissertation for our final year and mine was on teaching Grammar the Communicative way. In the end, when our grades were put on the notice board, I was relief and happy to see that I got 2.1 for my degree. Only our friend, Haniza got First Class. We had hoped that Za would get a First as well....

We were given the choice either to have our Graduation in July 1997 at Exeter University, which Marjon was affiliated to; or we would have to wait until much later if we were to join other Marjon students graduating at the City Hall. So we decided to go to Exeter for our Convocation. It was definitely not as grand or elaborate as the ones held at Malaysian universities. Even our gowns were simple and plain. Some of my friends' parents were able to make it for the event. My parents couldn't afford the flight tickets. I was a bit sad but still happy to meet the parents again. I had to wait until my Master's graduation in UUM for my mom and dad to attend. I was happy to see them happy. I also got a sunflower bouquet. And a cute teddy bear. Better late than never. :)

Convocation Day, Exeter University, July 1997

With my lecturer, Graeme Burns, the Tempe expert!

My years in UK ended in July 1997. There were good times and bad times.  But It was a period that I cherish which has shaped me into who I am today. I have yet to go back to Plymouth. I hope I would be able to, one day. Perhaps we could have our Grand Reunion there, my TESL friends.......!   :)

Wednesday, 29 March 2017


Marjon, Plymouth - Part 4


I used to stay in a school hostel for 5 years and I only went home every few months. So, living away from my family is not a totally new experience. But, studying in UK and living away from home and family for 6 years is another matter. That was the first time I left Malaysia for a foreign country and it would be months or years before I could see my family again. Flight tickets were not cheap. And it meant travelling non-stop on a plane for almost 14 hours!

I was happy that I wasn't alone on this epic journey. 29 other Teslians were also on board, new friends that soon would become good friends as we travelled along this path together. 15 of us would study in Bognor Regis, West Sussex while the rest, including myself, would be studying at the College of St Mark & St John in Plymouth, Devon. It is more commonly known as Marjon. Now, the formal name has changed, along with the status. It is now called the University of St Mark and St John and even comes with a new logo.

At first, I thought we would stay in a dorm or hostel rooms during our first year but it turned out that we would be staying with an English family for a year! Imagine the anxiety and curiosity that we felt as we met our new families for the first time. John Burke, the INTEC Director of our college, spoke to us personally to match each one of us to a family. I wasn't ready to live with a family which has a dog but I was willing to stay with two small children. I was also ready to be a temporary vegetarian (seafood is okay) in the house. Breakfast would be cereal and milk. My lunch would be at the college. Dinner would be prepared by my host mom. They had been briefed by INTEC regarding the Muslim Halal diet and other restrictions.

When we reached the college after a four-hour bus drive from London, our host families were already waiting for us. After a welcoming speech and matching a student with a family, we left for our new home. My new family consists of Calcidonia Smith, who came from Malta many years before, Nicholas Smith and their two beautiful children, Stephanie and Gregory.  Both of them are grown-ups now and Stephanie is married, with one kid. From what I know, Nicholas and Gregory are now working in Hong Kong while Donia and her daughter are still living in Plymouth.

My new house is in Woolwell, Plymouth, about 20-minute bus ride to the Plymouth city centre. It took me 5 minutes by bus to go to Marjon but around 40 minutes if I were to walk to college. Since the bus service was not very frequent, I preferred to walk and burn some calories (as if).  The 'exercise' was not that taxing because of the weather and temperature. Most of the time, it was windy, cold, dry and sometimes foggy or rainy. I didn't really sweat much. I usually wore my sweater and jacket and boots to college. I learnt to walk fast like the Brits and arrived on time (or earlier) for classes and events. I learnt to queue everywhere and say thank you to people at the - bank, college, market, supermarket, library, bus station, shop, etc..... and these habits seem to stick to me until today.

I had my own room in the house, not too big and not too small, just nice. The view from my window was pleasing since I got the room facing the front lawn. There was a single bed, a desk, a cupboard and the best thing there was a black and white mini 'telly' that lasted for the whole 6 years! Thank you, Donia for giving it to me as a leaving present at the end of that one year. Before I was a Korean drama addict, I was first a British telly addict! Like I said before, I can live without a radio but not a television...  :P

To be honest, I was scared at first. I remember the first night there, feeling cold and a little lost. What if they could not understand me? What if I could not understand them? I was wearing my blue baju kurung because I wasn't sure of  what was suitable and proper. It was early September of 1991 and it was Autumn season. Luckily, the house had central heating and my room was warm and cosy. My first winter was challenging but fun! I remember we asked permission form our lecturer to go out and play in the snow and build a snowman... just like those images from the telly. But the snow which fell over Plymouth was brief and by the second or third day, it would have melted away....

Donia and her family treated me nicely and even though there were moments of tension or confusion, we managed to retain a good relationship. We talked a lot about our backgrounds. I described Malaysia to her and she would share about how she came to UK from Malta. I found out from her that there are some similarities between Arabic and Maltese language and music, and it turned out that the island, Malta, was once colonized by an Islamic Empire...

I guess, both of us found some kind of understanding and empathy since we came from another country to live in Britain. I felt a sense of camaraderie with her. I appreciated all her efforts in trying to make me feel welcomed in the family. She even tried cooking rice and vegetable Malaysian style and buying Indian ready-made curries to go with the dishes. I love fish n chips ( Plymouth is famous for it) but not spaghetti in tomato sauce... I like cheese and onion Cornish pasties and the rectangular vegetable ones.  I used to buy shrimp sandwiches from Mark & Spencer and we found a lot of Malaysian products in an Asian foodstore, Maggi noodles, Lingham chilli sauce and belachan, to name a few.

                                                                    (image from Donia's FB photos)

I experienced my first Christmas with them. They also took me to visit many places in and around Plymouth. They took me to the GP when I fell sick and even taught me a few new things (like how to operate a lawn mower). I was really grateful for their help and kindness. In return, I used to babysit the two children when the parents were out. I discovered that children are universal in their behaviour and characteristics. These kids are similar to the kids back home. They have their sweet time and then their tantrum time...!  Stephanie and Greg are adults now. I wonder if they still remember my presence in their house at that time. Probably not so much. They were only toddlers then.

It was sad to say good bye when I left the family after the one year was over. We did keep in touch during the years I was there but we seemed to lost contact after I came home. But thank to FB for reconnecting me with Donia again after all these years. My only wish is for her to visit Malaysia some day so that I can return the favour and take her travelling around Kedah.... ;)

                                                                                        Thank you Donia. Love, Jess.... X X X X

Monday, 27 March 2017


Marjon, Plymouth, UK - Part 3

Korea done. Bandung done.
Now I shall go down the memory lane once again to Marjon, Plymouth, UK. The 1990s.


I used to work part time during weekends to earn extra pocket money since the stipend we got was not much. I worked at Kurbani, an Indian restaurant which was owned by a family of Bangladeshi origin. The pay was not much but it did cover my groceries for a week. The owner, Mr Tarafder, whom everybody called 'Uncle' came to UK in the 1960s in search of  a better life. After many years of working in a restaurant, he finally opened one in Plymouth. His children also worked there.The head chef was Reza Tarafder who actually has a degree in Engineering. Being a filial son, he decided to work for the family business. I guess it was not an easy decision to make at that time.  I also got to know the other family members - Reza's mother (Auntie), his wife and his cute daughter, Tasnim.

The restaurant was opened for 2 hours during lunch and  opened again at 5.00pm for dinner. I work the evening shift as a kitchen assistant. I was not the first Malaysian to work there, nor the last. Every Saturday and Sunday evening,  I took a bus to North Hill to go to work and Reza would take me home after the restaurant was closed and the kitchen cleaned. I usually went back around midnight. My job consisted of cleaning the floor, peeling sacks of onions, cutting up vegetables and washing the dishes. The only thing I regret is that I did not recall the recipe of any of the Indian dishes which were on the menu. I had seen how they were prepared every weekend but I just couldn't remember the steps. Silly me. I know. Just to name a few dishes : chicken tikka masala, chicken vindaloo, rogan gosth, naan, chaana chat, mango chutney, papadoms, raita and the sweet, sweet lassi... I still miss the chicken and chickpea curry that Reza usually cooked for the staff.  I also loved the peshawari naan cooked in the clay oven.

Today, they no longer own the restaurant. Reza now runs a mini post office and Uncle has finally retired. The brothers have their own work and Reza's children have all grown up. We are friends on FB and sometimes, he called me out of the blue from UK just to say hello and we would chit chat for a short while. One of his favourite question was : have you got married? ;)

Thank you, Reza for the work and the friendship. You were like a big brother that I don't have. Despite the hard work in the kitchen, it is one of my cherished time in UK.... ;)

Kurbani Forever!

Sunday, 26 March 2017

BANDUNG Wisata - Day 3 and (Day 4 - Final day)


Jia was not feeling well from the previous night. It was probably food poisoning. So, she decided to stay in bed and would not be joining us for our last day tour of Bandung. We felt bad for her but she needed to recover fast since we would be going back the next day.

That morning, we went back to Aria Jeans again before heading to Sapulidi restaurant for some minor alterations. The Sapulidi restaurant which is located at Lembang is unique as it is built around mini padi fields and streams. There are many huts to choose from. It was drizzling when we arrived. The rain falling down the attap roofs created a soothing ambience as we waited for our lunch. The spread was amazing! I like that they used old crockery to serve the food. The Sundanese food tasted delicious too.... After lunch, we walked around the area until we reached the landmark of the restaurant - the sapulidi scuplture. It is huge....!

After lunch, we made our way to Cibaduyut where leather goods are sold in shops that line up the main street. You can buy shoes, bags, etc here. Just make sure you bargain the price first. We went to find a rather pair of  sandals for our mother. My siblings bought her a pair once during their first Bandung trip, and my mom thought they were really comfy. So this time, we bought a few for her.  Hopefully, the sandals will last long.

Coming back to the city, we decided to stopover at a textile shop that we saw two days earlier. It is the D'Fashion and textile Shop located at Jendral Ahmad Yani road or Kosambi as it is widely known. It is a lace heaven, people! The price ranges between 45,000 Rupiah and 500,000 Rupiah.. The choice is wide and affordable. You can choose  pretty laces in many colours depending on your budget.  

After going ga-ga over the beautiful laces for a few hours, we reluctantly left the shop to go buy some cakes and desserts. A must in Bandung. I bought a box full of brownies of different flavours from Kartika Sari at Jln Haji Akbar / Jln Juanda. My favourite is Almond Brownies.

 For dinner, we decided to 'tapau' food from Kampiun Bistro, Jln Kebon Kawung, a modern cafe near the famous bakeries. We were too tired to dine in.  We just wanted to reach our hotel and rest our feet a.s.a.p. So, in the end, we bought a variety of Nasi Goreng! They were yummy. This was our last night at the hotel. We had to pack our bags before we could go to bed. To our horror, the bags had somehow multiplied and we were not so sure about our fate at the airport the next day.....

Next morning, Our guide, Pak Manan, was already waiting for us at the lobby to take us to Bandara airport. Somehow, he managed to stack all our luggage inside the van. We said goodbye to him and thank him for his help and wish his family well. We had to hire two porters to carry our luggage since we had to hurry to the check-in counter. Just as we predicted, the kilos had exceeded the limit! So we had to take out some goods and transfer it to our hand luggage. I ended up with  an extra bag to carry.

The morning flight was full. After 2 hours of blue sky, we reached KLIA2. I was glad to arrive safe and sound. Since our flight to Alor Setar was that night,we still have a few hours of free time. So we decided to lepak at Zaza's room at Everly Hotel for a few hours before taking a taxi to the airport. She was not returning home with us since she had to attend a meeting  in KL the next day. 

Alhamdulillah, we arrived at Kepala Batas safely that night. Jia and I bid farewell to our cousin, Tun Tija Bismi who was with us during the trip to Bandung. 

Selamat tinggal, Bandung. 
Sampai ketemu lagi!
 I would definitely visit it again.... :)

Hatur Nuhun...!  

Sunday, 5 February 2017


My Bandung Wisata - Day 2

Good morning, Bandung! This was the view from our hotel, Fabu Hotel. When we went down for breakfast, we met so many other Malaysian tourists in the dining hall. I guess the hotel is quite popular among the average Malaysian travellers. The room is modern but not very big. The breakfast spread was a bit of a let down. Rice, vegetables, chicken or meat dishes are the staple here. The only Western on the menu are the bread and cereal. 

As usual, the roads were busy even early in the morning. Many schools seemed to organise activities on that Saturday and parents were seen waiting  for their kids near the school gate. On this morning, we were fortunate to see a rare occurence in Malaysia but a common one here in Bandung. The Wali Kota or the Governor, could be seen cycling to his office, accompanied by a few bodyguards on motorbikes who cleared the way for him to ride on. Wow....! Just Wow.

The photo below is his  administrative office, fondly known as Gedung Sate which was named after a pole on top of the roof. The pole actually looks like sate on skewers from afar... ;)

Then, we had to make a quick stop at Aria Jeans again.  Most of the time, the jeans were a fit pair but sometimes, we needed to make certain adjustment to the measurement. Just be ready for the tailor's snappy comments regarding her jeans....

That day was shopping day, so our first stop is Pasar Baru where beautiful laces in many colours are in abundance. Our target were the lace, telekungs and batiks. We were lucky to have a shopping assistant that took us to all the relevant shops and even offered to carry our shopping bags! We couldn't thank you enough that young man who were probably tired of our endless walkabout around that 5-tiered shopping complex. 

The laces were simply to die for. The price ranges from 90,000 Rupiah to 400,000 Rupiah...The lining comes free with the lace purchase! My sister was happy but found it hard to choose the prettiest one for her future event. This is a heaven for any bride-to-be.   :)

We were so hungry after all the walking and bargaining that we decided to have the popular ayam penyet at Wong Solo for lunch. The food was quite delicious but we did not manage to try the alpukat juice there as it was sold out. Since there is a musolla there, we performed our prayers first before continuing our shopping spree at Paris Van Java Shopping Mall.

The highlight of the mall is the famous bookstore and publication house, Gramedia. This was a heaven for my sister, Zaza who had been waiting to get her hands on her favourite Indonesian authors like Tere Liye. I was happy to find an English version of Negeri 5 Menara by A. Fuadi. 

After spending about an hour or more in Gramedia, we were happy to find an A&W outlet and quenched our thirst with rootbeer float. The taste was heavenly, just like old times. We even tried  Korean rice and spicy chicken balls at Kkuldak and they tasted okay. Pak Manan assured us that the food in Bandung is Halal except for a few Chinese restaurants that can be found in the city.

Our dinner was at Sederhana Pasteur Padang Restaurant . Actually, this was probably my first experience eating a 'proper' or 'authentic' Padang food. I counted there were around 10 small dishes served on our table. The food spread could have been more, but they were sold out. Most of the dishes looked familiar except two or three that looked too strange to eat. I just couldn't eat the brain of a cow. Or it's tongue.  The food were quite lukewarm. Just like our lauk nasi campur...

 I discovered how the waiter calculate our bill. He was sure to have good eyesight to be able to spot the untouched dishes which would be excluded from the bill.  The price was  reasonable.

Finally, it was time to go back to the hotel and rest and figure out the damage we did to our purse... Huhu.

So that's how the Sundanese spell Bandoeng....!  :P

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

Image from : I have been neglecting this ...