February 18, 2009

and it happens again

Posted in Malaysia, My Home, Ranty Pants at 9:01 pm by meldee

Come into my parlour, said the Spider to the Fly.

Canon EOS Kiss, Degraves Lane, Melbourne.


By nature I tend to be quite a self-absorbed person (like everyone else, I’m sure).

I navel gaze, think my thoughts aloud, scrutinize every concievable imperfection on my body and in my heart. In a way I suppose I can be like a baby, fully mesmerized by my own fingers and toes. ย My existence is a blissful one, as long as I am safe, sheltered, fed and loved.

But I was also born with a tiger’s spirit blessing the stars above my head, and with warrior blood in my veins. I was born, quite possibly,to fight.ย 

Not necessarily involving fisticuffs, though I joke that that is something I’d like to do before I die (get into a fistfight with someone I really detest, no holds barred), but a to protest injustices and unfairness, to stand up for something I am absolutely convinced is The Right Thing and to go down, if I do, kicking and screaming all the way.

Because I am not only self-absorbed, intellectual rhetoric also tends to elude me when I am completely involved in something—sometimes literally kicking up a big fuss is the only way!

I probably sound quite cryptic, but I am actually deep in thought. And not deep in thought a la former Menteri Besar of Selangor Dato Dr. Khir Toyo kind of I-must-sit-and-think-two-hours-a-day, but just sort of tentatively prodding my disparate thoughts out with a stick and seeing how they turn out.

Things in my home state are in pretty shite condition at the moment.ย 

There has been a blatant violation of privacy of state Exco and Assemblyperson (get it right, you fools, how can a woman be an assemblyman?!) Elizabeth Wong. You can read about it from any good (indeed, even any bad) Malaysian news site for the full details—

I am more concerned now with the issue of private spaces and how vital they are and, oh, what a precious right it is.

Because it is a right. The right to let loose, to be free and forgetful, relaxed and romantic, dark and delirious—in the quiet and solitude of this essential space called ‘home’.

I really don’t feel safe anymore. My rights have been stripped from me and now I have to behave in the once-sacred space I called my room.

It angers me. My self-absorbed self needs this space and quiet to just be for a few hours in a day, to get back in touch with myself before I am lost.

I am sure I am not the only one who feels such.

I don’t know how many more times these things have to happen before people realise what a crime it is, to take away this precious space.

I don’t know how refugees or political detainees or people living in detention camps cope. I say this as un-princess-fully as I can, because along with food, shelter, safety and love—a space to be alone is what I feel every person is entitled to.

Shame on you who don’t realise this.



September 25, 2008

on nothing in particular

Posted in Happenings, Malaysia, My Home, Random Ramblings, Social Responsibility According to Me at 10:12 am by meldee

Don’t forget.

Canon EOS Kiss, The Annexe @ Central Market ladies’ loo (heh), Kuala Lumpur.


If they gave out awards for the worst bloggers ever I wouldn’t be surprised if I were up for a nomination. As long as they didn’t notify me via my blog, for obvious reasons ๐Ÿ™‚

Apologies for not replying comments etc, I’ve become remarkably bad with this sort of stuff in general so please don’t take it personally! I’m not even sure why I still keep a blog anymore (sort of like a token pet chicken, that you can’t bear to, um, slaughter for dinner, nor give it away or set it free because you’ve sort of gotten used to it).

I expect to be blogging a bit more when I’m actually on my 2-month sabbatical from All Things Academic–what a luxurious (or hellish, knowing how easily I get bored!) break that will be!

My final thesis deadline is the 14th of November–that’d be my third and final edition (good gods I hope so). A few more rewrites are needed–my third and fourth chapters need to be majorly beefed up in terms of theory and I’m supposed to have a full, rough-ish version by 24th October.

I really never expected this year to be so draining, though I imagine if I hadn’t been such a busybody everywhere else and stuck my fingers in so many pies I wouldn’t be feeling so frazzled! I recall blogging about this, or at least writing about this in my diary (I think this latter possibility is more likely as I don’t think I caught on to the whole blogging phenomenon until I went to college) when I was in Form Five or something when I was trying to teach myself Physics, slog three hours daily over Add Maths prep questions and memorise endless facts for History for SPM, on top of being Interact Club President, President of the English Society (I think? Good grief everything feels so long ago!), go for volleyball training for MSSD, etc…and I think there was the Taylor’s College Debate thing I did as well, on top of like a million other things!

Given all that I suppose I, of all people, shouldn’t be surprised that I feel like a goldfish with its fins tied together. Perhaps it’s no wonder then that everybody else but me seems to have confidence that I will pull through and come up swimmingly!

I’d normally believe it but I really do find myself dreading things that I normally looked forward to…such as holidays, because holidays mean my productivity levels plummet because I’m, er, actually on holiday, or that the uni’s locked up (as it will be these Raya holidays–I cannot imagine anyone else coming in, and the security guards are always very grumpy about having to buzz me in because my swipe card doesn’t work on public holidays!) and since I’ve reformatted Isadella (It’s a Dell, lah) I’ve been stuck with a FOSS version of Microsoft Word which makes me lose all my formatting…gaah.

Anyhoo, moving on.

I had the privilege of doing some rapporteuring for an advocacy workshop on migrant workers in Malaysia and one of the issues that were inevitably brought up was the status of refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia. Now, I’ve always known that these issues have been out there, heck I’ve even done work with refugee children before.

But I don’t think I really quite grasped the seriousness of the issue–we’re talking about real human beings here who should have the right to safety and shelter and healthcare and education, but they have almost nothing–Malaysia doesn’t even recognise the status of refugees, some of which have been in this country for over 15 years!

I was completely appalled and had to almost hold my jaw off the floor as I heard anecdotes (off the record, of course) about cases of abuse and violence. There were even some pretty heated arguments and debates about what refugees should get and supposedly what they want, which I overheard parts off.

Which made me sort of go a little quibbly inside because from looking around the room I know most of the people there were not refugees, and probably didn’t really have to give a damn, but they did. They don’t have to get so involved, but they do. Which made me again think of this Amnesty International saying, that ‘the only thing necessary for the persistence of evil is for enough good people to do nothing‘.

And it just made me want to try to save the world all over again, you know?

A poem shared with me by a friend not five minutes ago, that made me think of refugees, because my friend reads my mind.

If Porcelain, Then Only the Kind
by Stanislaw Baranczak

If porcelain, then only the kind
you wonโ€™t miss under the shoe of a mover or the
tread of a tank;
if a chair, then one not too comfortable, lest
there be regret in getting up and leaving;
if clothing, then just so much as can fit in a suitcase,
if books, then those which can be carried in the
if plans, then those which can be overlooked
when the time comes for the next move
to another street, continent, historical period
or world:

who told you that you were permitted to settle in?
who told you that this or that would last forever?
did no one ever tell you that you will never
in the world
feel at home in the world.

Translated by Frank Kujawinski.


Selamat Hari Raya to all.

I wish things in the country would bloody settle down already so issues of actual importance can be worked on–I’m sick of all this faffing around. Roar.

September 13, 2008


Posted in Malaysia, My Home at 1:16 pm by meldee


Canon EOS Kiss, aunt’s house in Shah Alam.

don’t tell me i don’t care
because i do.
don’t accuse me of being a coward
because i’m not (really).
don’t say that i’m not trying
because i try every day in my own way.
don’t sigh that i haven’t got a heart
because i do, and it bleeds more than you know.
don’t call me irresponsible
because i’m not you.
don’t think that i am indifferent
because it affects everybody in different ways.
don’t give up on me yet
because i’m still learning to fly.

July 15, 2008

on power

Posted in Malaysia, My Home, Social Responsibility According to Me, Uni at 3:22 pm by meldee

You. Listen to me.

Canon EOS Kiss, World Press Freedom Day at Central Market, Kuala Lumpur.


So there have been a whole lot of stupid stuff going on in the media lately. Stuff that’s contributed to my rage (see previous post), which died down for a brief moment (short attention span–what did I tell you) but is now back in full-force.

I read the most ludicrous, badly-written article by a Melati Mohd Ariff who alleges herself a journalist for the national news agency.

The link is available here, and basically slams homosexuality to the ground, likening it to a ‘cancer’ that is ‘spreading its tentacles’. Now, everyone is entitled to their views, but seriously folks. What adults do in the bedroom with consent (and I cannot emphasise this enough) is nobody’s business but their own.

There are heaps of enraged responses already floating around, one of my favourites is the letter to the editor written by Michelle Gunaselan, available here.

It irks me to no end that pseudo-journalists put out stuff like this, with no right of reply to members of the LGBT community; neither were any sexuality rights NGOs asked for their opinion. Using such value-laden terms and coming from a ‘National News Agency’ like this is akin to propaganda–but then again hey, what’s new?

Seriously. The policymakers of this country seem obsessed with sex and nothing but(t?). There are so many other pressing issues out there–abused children. Poverty. The dismal state of education (Bahasa Melayu or Bahasa Malaysia? Maths and Science in English or Malay?). Families abandoned by fathers who then go on to marry other women and start up new families, repeat cycle.

It pisses me off so badly, especially because during times like these I think of my kids and wonder when their voices will be heard. One of the girls, D, is sitting for her UPSR examination soon and she cannot even read in English, what more hope to write essays?

Get your priorities right.


On a more humourous/ominous note, being a sessional has its benefits.

I now have access to the timetables of all the students. I can even filter according to name, subjects taken and days.

Totally awesome possum.

July 6, 2008

on colourings

Posted in Happenings, Kids, Malaysia, My Home at 5:38 pm by meldee

Don’t box me in.

Taken with my Canon EOS KISS.


As the English/Malay speaking half of World Vision Malaysia’s Youth Ambassadors (hah! I sound so self-important) I had to today emcee a colouring contest at the Putra World Trade Centre in conjunction with the My Family Showcase. All registration fees went to World Vision Malaysia (yay! Methinks about RM4,000-RM5,000 was collected) and kids between the ages of 5-12 stood to win cash prizes.

Now, hardly exerting stuff, but it was quite challenging, and hilarious how miscommunication was so rife and there wasn’t enough space for all the kids to colour together; the younger ones remained inside the hall while the older kids had to colour outside (poor things).

Now, why this is blogworthy: it was scary.

Like, seriously—the air of competition, the hardcore coming-early-to-book-a-spot, the doting parents who watched their kids like hawks…now, I’ve entered a few colouring contests in my time (haven’t we all? It’s like some Malaysian child’s rite of passage)—never won, obviously, because when I was a kid my 5 second attention span was much worse and I never got the hang of the shading thing—but I don’t remember those colouring contests being less of a contest than it was a battle!

Ok picture this yeah—clearly some of the kids go for art classes (in addition to the music/piano class, the taekwondo class, swimming class, maths class, English class, spinning class cooking class upper-middle class…yeah I’m kidding about the last three, but you catch my drift); these kids were the ones with the hardcore parents.

The parents that buy them full on mini-tables and chairs and lugged it to PWTC just for this. The parents that forced me to return submitted artwork “because the full two hours are not up yet; Ah Boy, colour some more until time is up, I don’t care if you are tired or not”. The parents that crushed littler kids in the melee that happened during prize-giving up on stage.

Gaah! The kids are almost as scary….especially among the older ones, many of them actually brought pieces of cloth to cover their half-completed artwork to prevent other children from seeing what they’ve done! They’re sitting there on their cushions/mini-chairs, barefoot, little scraps of crayon-stained cloth around them, dusting and scraping away at their artwork, giving their opponents sneaky looks and glaring quite dangerously at me when I make announcements, like they’re thinking “stuff yer gob, ye crazy woman, let me colour in peace! Yer disrupting my artistic train of thought as to whether I should colour the man’s hair cornflower yellow or sunshine yellow.”

Speaking of which, is something else I noticed—call me over-analytical but my Arts training has done me well. I noticed that almost all the kids, colouring artwork that featured families and kids (and a cat, for the older group of children), coloured the skin of the characters in the pictures light. As opposed to dark. Yes, even the children who were Malay or Indian (dan lain-lain).

I just found this so problematic and sad. Things are such that these little ones think that fair is beautiful and dark is not? Sigh.


I also found myself asked twice over these last two days, once by a salesgirl at a cosmetics counter, and another time by a DJ at PWTC (I digress here, but why do DJs always put on this fake ‘ohmygod I’m so cool listen to my sexy raspy deep’ voice when they’re at the mic, but when they’re not on it they can talk like a ‘normal’ person again? Gaah.): “So what are you? Malay? Chinese? Mix?”

Everytime I am asked this lately, my answer is always the same. “I am Malaysian”.

This always throws people. “Yeah, ok, but what are you? You speak Malay so well” to which I usually reply, “but that’s inconsequential. I’m Malaysian and I don’t think I should be defined by my ethnicity or my language.”

I always make them uneasy with this…haha.

The DJ-type person also interrogated me on why I couldn’t speak Chinese, because I told him that Jia Xiang (the other WVM Youth Ambassador) was doing the Mandarin version while I spoke in English/Malay. (Gaah. Because!) I was a little offended by this, even though it happens to me so often you wouldn’t believe it, and I told him so. Because I choose not to, and why does it matter, especially to him anyway? Does it make me less of a good person because I can’t speak what society deems my mother tongue?

It’s a personal choice and I don’t think I need to justify myself to anyone.

Call me a shit-stirrer but I think it’s high time we embraced this on a personal level to not be defined in terms of these things. The more we harp on issues of ethnic pride and the whole my-language-is-better-than-yours and all-English-speaking-people-have-forgotten-their-roots issue the more we are perpetuating this vicious cycle.

There’s only one race, and that’s the human race, and we’re all citizens of this same country. So why the labels? Why the need to put everything in boxes? Why can’t we be free to be you and me?

July 1, 2008


Posted in Happenings, Malaysia, My Home, Social Responsibility According to Me at 2:41 pm by meldee

I wrote this letter to The Editor of The Star (as you would) yesterday, but it didn’t come out—am not disappointed or pissed, because knowing me, I won’t shut up about these things ๐Ÿ˜›

(And with the recent spandanglings involving Anwar? Mad.)

Anyway I thought I’d share it here, and leave it up to you to make up your own minds.

Mind you, I’m not asking anyone to take sides—just be careful and know that this could happen to you. In a way I’m glad it happened to me, because I am aware of these things—I’d hate for it to be someone who’d not say anything.

And..ahem…I’m sure it’s pretty clear which club I’m talking about.


Dear Editor,

I am writing about a recent incident that had me disturbed and disappointed when I paid a visit to a new club in Sunway. Being that is part of an international chain of clubs, it is understandable that they have certain standardised rules and protocol, among one of them allowing a one-time entry after the cover charge has been paid.

While I understand that this measure is put in place for crowd control, this incident I experienced I felt, was bordering on the unreasonable.

At one stage, I wanted to leave early for home. As I had driven there with a friend and she did not want to leave yet, I requested that she and another friend walk me to my car that was parked some distance away. I did this because I am conscious that there have been too many instances where people are accosted, raped or kidnapped while alone at night.

The bouncer at the exit, however, was adamant that once my friends had exited the club they would be required to pay for re-entry, even though we explained to him that my car was a good distance away and that I was alone.

While I realise that I made some mistakes on my part, namely having parked so far away in the first place, I feel it does not justify the attitude the club bouncer had to deny me the relative security of having my friends escort me back safely.

If he could not make an exception for my friends to re-enter, he should have at least offered to escort me to my car personally, or ask one of his colleagues.He was also rude about the whole incident, which I feel is unacceptable.

I would like to say that this has nothing to do with chivalry, it is more common sense and concern for another human being.

This is a brand-new club that has not even been officially opened yet—while they pride themselves on being the only smoke-free club in Malaysia I think they should also take pride in something as simple as extending concern over the safety and comfort of their customers. If they truly wish to provide a good overall experience, they should remember little things like this count, too.

In my opinion, club bouncers need to take every measure to ensure that the safety and well-being of its patrons are well and truly taken care of, not merely just inside the clubs. Club management, too, needs to ensure that their parking lots are well-lit and have one or two security personnel patrolling the area.

I have every right to go out once in a while to socialise with friends and should not have to live in perpetual fear of my safety. I try to be as proactive as possible but sometimes, like in this instance, I was not careful enough.

I would like to remind other young women to adopt the following precautions in light of my own errors: if you can avoid it, do not drive out alone at night. Always park in brightly lit-areas and don’t stall in your car after you get in—always lock your doors and be on the alert for shady-looking characters. If you have to commute alone, make sure you constantly update friends or family of your whereabouts and what time you are expected to be home. And lastly—never drink and drive.

June 19, 2008

on realisations

Posted in Friends, Malaysia, My Home, Strange Feelings, The Thesis at 9:54 am by meldee


Taken with my Canon EOS Kiss, 50mm. My room.


I know, I know, I’m supposed to be at work.

After the mini-drama this morning when my usual computer wouldn’t log me in (there are five computers in my office, only three of which work–mine, D’s and the one behind my cubicle) because apparently the time on the computer and the main server wasn’t the same. I was growling quite ferociously because just a few hours ago I’d sworn that I’d transcribe at least one interview today.

Then I remembered to thank the computer for shitting on me (not literally lah ok) because it reminded me to be patient (yes, I’m still in my Reclaiming Zennity (wtf) phase).

So I hopped on to the computer behind me, checked emails, etc, and after a while, frustrated with the non-scrolly mouse and squinty old CRT monitor, I tried my computer again. And yayness, it works now.

So, um, my point is, um, I need to, um, recover from this morning’s, um, drama.

That’s why I’m blogging in lieu of working.

*defensively* But I will do it eventually! I, um, swear.

By the way, why on earth am I justifying myself to myself? In cyberspace at that. Jeebus.


So I had lunch with two friends of mine from primary school yesterday. I don’t know if they still read me regularly (heh), but if they do, holla, M and L! ๐Ÿ˜€

It’s been 10 years since we kissed our dark-blue-(sexy?)-white blouse uniformed days behind now, and of course it’s inevitable that people change. We were just updating each other over green tea and sushi, or rather, those two that see each other regularly were updating me on things that have happened lately.

Apparently M was not surprised at all that I’ve taken the path that I did. I am, and I look at myself each day with wonder. I certainly never would have guessed that the emotionally unstable, awkward, unpopular misfit kid that I was back then would turn into who I am today, though that’s not to say I’m not still a misfit kid…I reckon I disguise that fact a little better now.

We were talking about relationships, about the idea of marriage and settling down, about the phenomenon of “everyone who goes to Melbourne doesn’t want to come back, everyone who goes to the UK almost always does”, old friends, double lives, and such. The unavoidable question that came up was why I want to go back to Australia when “the country needs people like (me)”.

I guess no matter how many times I’m asked it, it always throws me a little each time. This country, every country, needs people like me. Like you. Like them. It’s unfair to assume that because some people are activists, warriors for social justice, policy makers, etc, that it’s their job to run the country and see that it doesn’t go to the dogs. It’s everyone’s responsibility, that’s why we’re citizens. That’s why we have the right to vote and question and not merely accept the status quo.

It stings that the thought even crosses the minds of people that I don’t love my country, though I know I hardly have control over what I think, what more what others do. Ah well.

On the topic of relationships, I was also asked if the cross-cultural thing was an issue. That stumped me a little. Besides the fact that T likes Vegemite and I hate the stuff (we’ve reached an amicable decision on Promite being our spread of choice), he uses funny language sometimes (as do I), and that he’s white and I’m…er, not, I never really thought of the ‘cultural differences’.

He wears jeans, I do too. He speaks English (or Australian), so do I. We know (almost) the same music and movies, we both believe in good manners, we can both hold our own in an argument but still respect each other.

And I know this may sound really obvious, but I’ve never seen him, or anyone else, as ‘that white guy’ that is so different from me. He’s just T. A person. I mean, of course we all do it, refer to someone as ‘the white boyfriend’ or ‘the Malaysian girlfriend’, but itsn’t it kind of arbitrary? It’s all just labels, words that don’t really mean anything.

Or at least they don’t really to me. But then again maybe it’s because I am such a product of M.University’s cultural critiques, etc? Have I thus lost my ‘Asian values’ and crossed over to the dark side? Am I sucking up to neo-Imperialism and turning into one of its many poster-persons?

I dunno. I really don’t. I’m not saying that I think M or L are wrong in saying what they did, or that I’m right, I’m just stating what happened and the corresponding thoughts that crossed my mind. And it struck me how just a few years ago I’d have chipped in, talking about how Western values have corrupted us all, and we’re fundamentally different because we are Asian.

But what is Westernness, or Asianness? I’m not disrespecting history or culture as in, you know, traditions, ceremonies, bla bla bla…I mean it as a whole. Isn’t it just different ways of doing similar things? Isn’t it like religion, where all paths ultimately lead to God/s? And who created these labels for things anyway, did Humankind (observe my attempts at being Politically Correct) not decide to make these distinctions? I hardly think they mulled over these things and its future implications/connotations for days/weeks/months before reaching a conclusion. Isn’t culture thus, to some extent, arbitrary?

Gasp. I think I might get burned at stake/flogged/stoned to death for heresay.

But I digress.

Anyway, like the title of today’s post says, I realised how much I’ve changed. How different things are, yet how achingly familiar. I still love my friends, and my family, and home, but I’m different now. I don’t think the way I used to, I don’t even feel the same.

Weird eh. One of those strange moments when home suddenly feels like a foreign land, and all things once-familiar feel just that much more strange.

Maybe this is a feeling that comes with age. Lever/age. Whatever.

June 15, 2008

on doing it for the kids

Posted in Kids, Malaysia, My Home, Social Responsibility According to Me at 9:28 pm by meldee


Taken with an Olympus FE-190 digital camera in Sibaju, Kalimantan, 2007.


I’ve been working with children at a shelter for abused children for almost a year now. It’s something I look forward to and do with a few close friends, all who are wonderful and patient people. We do activities with the kids, and try to mix it up so that they (and ourselves) don’t get bored—we’ve done dances, yoga, art, kungfu/kickboxing/taekwondo…it’s usually a whole heap of fun ๐Ÿ™‚

Yesterday was particularly trying, though. Most of the others in the group couldn’t make it, so it was just myself and another volunteer. To keep it simple, we decided to play games with the kids—the Memory Game (where you study 20 items for 1 minute, then cover them and try to remember as many as possible) in pairs (so the younger kids wouldn’t feel so lost) and Blind Man’s Bluff.

It seemed like a good idea at the time, but I promised a ‘prize’ to the pair that remembered the most number of things in the prescribed time period. There were two pairs that came in at a tie, so I gave out four sweets. As is the case with children, most of them also came up to me later asking if they could have one too, to which I said ‘No’ as some of them didn’t give in their papers, or score as highly as the others.

What I didn’t anticipate, however, was that a ruckus would break out among the children over the simple reward of sweets. Among the younger ones, fine, I know it’s inevitable for some sort of tantrum to happen, but it was when the older girls (they are about 12) started throwing tantrums I was utterly shocked.

Fights even erupted among some of the boys because one of them started taunting the others with his ‘sweet victory’; needless to say they were none too pleased with that. What made it even more difficult was that there were four new children, and as the other volunteer said, the kids are probably still trying to establish a new ‘pecking order’ among them, hence the fisticuffs and tears.

I tried explaining it to them as slowly and gently as I could that things don’t always happen your way. You need to put in effort and try your best to succeed at most things, and if your friend receives an award and you don’t, you should try to be happy for them, not be jealous, and tell yourself that it could be your turn the next time around.

The younger kids had trouble understanding this, and one of the new boys was mumbling fiercely about how I should just go away and that he didn’t care about what I was saying. One of the ones who we’ve known from the beginning, K, started crying continuously, which kind of set off a new episode of tears from the rest.

One of the older girls tearfully said that she thinks she understands what I’m saying, because when she gets an ‘A’ in class for her tests, her classmates get jealous and refuse to talk to her. And it made my heart bleed, because yeah, while we say that kids will be kids and they’re too young to understand ‘grown-up’ things like this, I don’t believe in that. I reckon that it’s never too early to inundate children with the idea that a merit system exists, and not to expect things because they are their divine right. Rewards should be earned, even if it’s just the sense of satisfaction they have in their achievements.

One of the girls, S, rather sullenly asked me why I was being ‘like this’, and that she didn’t like me anymore because earlier when I came in, she’d said ‘hi’ to me and I didn’t respond. This distressed me a whole lot, and I took her aside to explain that this week we were seriously understaffed and that I had so many children clamouring for my attention at the same time, and that I didn’t mean to ignore her and it certainly didn’t mean that I didn’t care for or love her. This made her eyes glisten with tears, because I gently told her that I couldn’t give all my time to only her, and that she had to learn to share.

She gave me a hug and said that yeah, she understood, but actually she was upset because I didn’t give her a sweet. (Sigh)

Another thing I noticed while I was checking their Memory Game list was that even among the older children (aged 10-12), they had such incredible difficulty with spelling. Even the oldest of the group struggled with spelling ‘cermin mata’ (spectacles/glasses/sunnies) and ‘rantai’ (necklace)! Which made me wonder how the girl that got ‘A’s in her tests did so, unless it was for maths.

This is another clear indication that the education system has failed. These children are urban children, who live and study in government schools in the Klang Valley. They know songs like ‘Smack That’ (to our horror, heh) and keep up with the latest movies, and yet, they can’t spell or read even Dr. Seuss’ ‘Cat In The Hat’.

Of course, there are so many arguments about why this could be. It could be because, simply, the children are ‘bad’ students; it could also mean that they’re (and I hate to say this, because I really don’t believe it) ‘stupid’. It could be an indication that their teachers are lackadaisical, or that their parents didn’t do a good job. And I wouldn’t dispute the last point, because these children are from abusive homes…but at the same time, don’t their teachers notice, or care that a 12 year-old girl struggles with reading words like ‘goldfish’?

Maybe one could even argue that teachers are not paid enough to care. And that some teachers are idiots to begin with (which I agree on this under certain circumstances), which then leads one to question why such people are teaching in the first place. Which just makes us go round in circles again.

And if this is already the case for children living in the suburbs and urban areas, what are things like for children out in the villages or outskirts?


It’s so easy to say that yeah, things are as such; but honestly, to witness it firsthand, for it to be true for children that I love and care about, it makes me want to cry. And yes, it does make me want to try and save the world but I know there’s only so much I can do.

Just a thought, for all the aspiring teachers and educators out there (and let this serve as a reminder to me, too). Teaching is an extraordinary profession, because it requires a great deal of patience, compassion, and passion for learning and the desire to impart this knowledge upon those who don’t know. The minute you feel any of these elements waning, leave the vocation for a while and recover the part of yourself you’ve lost. Because I won’t deny that it’s an extremely exhausting and draining area. But you owe it to your students, who look up to you and admire you more than any other adult (yes, maybe even their own parents!) to give them the best that you can.

I know, though, that this is impossible. There will always be those who teach for the mere sake of it, and not for the love of children or knowledge, but for money and power. There will always be teachers who are arrogant, who have lost their sense of wonder and who see the children as pests and not as people. And this makes my heart bleed, because it’s such a vicious cycle.

I promise (to myself, and the Divine) that I will try to give as much as I can, be it love, time, knowledge or just a smile, to all the lives I am blessed enough to touch and perhaps impact. I want to be a better person, not just for myself, but for the kids.

One of the girls at the shelter, M, asked me what I worked as. I love M, especially, because she’s got these adorable chubby cheeks and the sweetest smile. She’s such a perfectionist too, and so energetic. Perfection is her ultimate goal.

I told her I was working at M.University, and her eyes widened. “Akak, will you be my teacher when I go to university?” she asked. “Of course,” I said, “But you have to finish primary school, then secondary school, and do really well; then only you can come to university.”

She looked up at me with her trusting brown eyes and smiled that smile that always melts my heart. “Ok, can. Ya, I will come to university, but only if Akak is my teacher.”

In my heart, I whispered to her that I think I already was.

June 12, 2008

on leaving

Posted in Malaysia, My Home, Strange Feelings at 10:58 am by meldee

Walking away (into the light).

Taken with my Canon EOS Kiss, 50mm lens. Monash Cultural Night, Sunway University College 2008.


It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, leaving home.

Not just moving out of home per se, but starting out afresh in another country. Away from family that loves me and feeds me awesome food, distanced from the things I love doing, separated from job stability.

It’s not just because of the boyfriend—of course, he is a big reason in my wanting to go (why else would we suffer through two years of long-distance relationshipping?!), but if you believe me, he’s not the only reason.

I need the taste of the unknown, to venture where people don’t know me. To wander (emotional) baggage-less…yes, even with the precious little money I have. Money that I’ve been working myself ragged to collect, money that’s truly my own.

I think I understand now why my Dad touts the proudest moment of his life being going to the UK with my mum with only 700 Pounds to last them 3 years. It takes a giant leap of faith and optimism indeed to venture out of one’s comfort zone into the (relative) unknown.

I feel conflicted, and I can’t help it. Since I got back from Australia, meeting activists and such wonderful kalyana mitra , being immersed in work that I have found such passion for– writing and working with children, I now feel reluctant to leave.

This, no matter what, is home to me.

No matter how I bitch and whinge and lament the political system, corruption, horrid traffic and crappy pay.

At the risk of sounding cocky (and I’m not, I’m more in awe than anything else), I know I could do well here. I keep getting calls from a headhunter trying to hook me up with PR jobs and other offers of full time work.

But at the same time I know myself well enough to need to quench the thirst within me to try things on my own and venture out to start over again. Just because. I know if I didn’t do this, I’d be deeply dissatisfied and restless. And I’d be miserable. Never ungrateful, let me assure you, just terribly unhappy.

I expect that people who don’t know me (and indeed, those who think they do) might be puzzled at my wanting to leave behind this stability and assurance of a cushy job, free accomodation and Nyonya food every night; it’s something I don’t expect anyone to understand. I feel I hardly understand it myself; all I know is that I must do it.

Yet I cannot go without reluctance.

It’s not just the surface things I’ll miss, like the awesome food, 24-hour Mamak and cheap and abundant shopping. It’s knowing that I’m Malaysian, I’m home.

I know this is so cheesy but when I landed back in KL from Australia and that disembodied voice on the MAS flight said, ‘and to all Malaysians, selamat pulang. Welcome home’ I had tears in my eyes.

Leaving home, being one of the thousands of graduates to abandon mothership Malaysia (so to speak) disturbs me somehow: I’m not going off in search of greener monetary pastures (though that’d be a bonus); I’m not going off because I hate the Government (they’re people too); I’m not going off because I see migration as a quick fix to my problems. I am not going off also just because of the boyfriend—moving there also means uncertainty, because I don’t have a job there, no immediate family, no activist/spiritual/shopping buddies. It’d just be me and him (and his kooky housemate who stole a signboard for my future study, apparently).

I don’t even know yet how exactly I’m going to stay in the country—study visa? No money to study; besides, my brain is going to give out on me soon. Work visa? No job offer (‘yet!‘ pipe up my Sagittarian planets cheerfully), no money to pay for one. Spouse visa? And get married in 9 months? Eeps. I don’t want to get married because I have to, I want to do it because I want to. In my own bloody time, thank you.

But I’m trying to remain optimistic and upbeat—my Sagittarius moon and mars are most rambunctiously cheering me on and urging ‘you can do it, Mel, you can do it! All you need to do is believe!‘—though my more pragmatic parts want to grab that freakin’ bow and arrow set and shoot old Saggi down.

(I realise how schizo I sound )

So why do I so badly want to go? Good question, I guess I’d have to say I don’t really know the answer to that.

And I suppose the only way to find out if I’d make it is to walk forward, walk away from home (into the light).

May 2, 2008

on hating bureaucracy

Posted in Malaysia, My Home, Ranty Pants at 5:15 pm by meldee

I just do.

Especially when it takes one four hours to submit forms for passport renewal and to pay up—yes I know they have those nifty passport renewal kiosks but guess what, my chip wouldn’t read (just my luck!).

And I noted with some satisfaction (because I am evil that way) that the kiosk had broken down when I left.

A note to the Subang branch of Immigration at Terminal 3 of the SAAS Airport, please make it more child-friendly. There are so many people carrying babies with them, and it’s hot and stuffy, and there’s no room for strollers, and a really tiny and dark corner for breastfeeding mothers. It’s torture not only for the kids, but for us trying to cope with the screaming kids :/

And a general note to Immigration: put on your website somewhere lah that the form has to be printed on both sides of the paper! Stop trying to con people of RM1 by forcing them to buy the forms >.<

I’m so glad passport renewals only happen once every five years because if this happened every year I’d go bonkers.

But the boyfriend tried to comfort me by saying that this may be the last time I need to renew my Malaysian passport…ooh. Goody, I wonder if Malaysians in Canberra are any more efficient. I have my doubts but oh well.

Happy World Press Freedom Day tomorrow!

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