There and back again

It’s there, but it’s not making itself known.

It’s around, but it’s not in focus.

It was there, but not it’s no longer there.

There’s something about the mind and the memory that knows when a thought is about to be penned down.

It chooses to take a rest for while in the deep recesses of the mind.

And appears at the moment least prepared, with no pen to write with, no paper to write on.

It’s time to flex the mind and the writing muscle again.


Untapped potentials of cars…and how they’re like humans.

Often when I drive on the road, I’m surprised (and frustrated) to see really powerful cars (models unknown to me, but they sure look like they have some powerful engines) going at 90km/h on the fast lane. Like, really? You’ve got the power to go at a speed that I would love to have but I can’t because I’m in my small Myvi which so far, I’ve only dared to push to 130 – 140km/h. And although the poor Toshiba engine revs and slaves under my command faithfully, I feel that I’m stressing it out. One can’t really “cruise” along at 120km/h in a 1300cc Myvi. 


On the other hand, these Toyota Camrys, Nissan Almeras and heck, definitely some BMWs, could well go at my speed of 120km/h and beyond…but they are not! Worst of all, these powerful cars are going at the speed of 90km/h on the fast lane.  Like, really.  Which is frustrating and surprising to me because these untapped abilities have so much potential to provide driving pleasures of speed and comfort at the same time. I’m pretty sure that going at a speed of 120km/h, these cars don’t leap and jump like beetles over bumps and holes like my Myvi. Neither do they feel like soaring eagles as they go along a curvy highway. Of which, I’m sometimes jealous of because my Myvi transforms into a jumping beetle and a soaring eagle at different parts of the road.


Frustration and surprise aside, I begin to do a forced association between humans and cars. You see, I begin to see how these cars are like humans. These untapped potentials in BMWs and Nissans that I see are like the untapped potentials in people that I sometimes meet and know.   I’ve met people who are like these fast cars, born (and bred) with the abilities and capabilities to go fast and furious on the fast lanes of life, flashing everyone aside in order to reach somewhere at the shortest amount of time. Well, maybe not the immoral part on flashing but generally having the potentials to move faster in life than the general population.


But the surprising thing is, they’re not. They’re not living their lives on the fast lane and they are definitely not flashing anyone. They are living life comfortably at 90 – 100km/h.


Going back to the roads. Further thoughts came up in relations to the drivers. If these drivers of powerful-but-slow cars are males, I’m sure they know how powerful their cars are. Should that be the case, this means that they choose to drive slowly.   Now if these drivers are females, and provided that these are not skillful and/or speed crazy female drivers that I’ve known and met on the roads, it could be that they do not have much knowledge and/or the interest to test out the speed of their potentially powerful cars.   Being comfortable at 90-100km/h without knowing the feel (and possibly joy) of driving at 120 – 130km/h or more, is quite a waste I must say.


If it’s the latter, then well, it’s like so many of us (males and females) who do not know the depth of our potentials, or what are our potentials at all for that matter!  We do get a little comfortable in life when we can actually rev it up a little to go a little faster, a little further.


*clears mind* At the end of the post, I think here’s what I’m trying to say. If you’re driving a nice big car, please drive a little faster. And should you choose not to, please don’t hog the fast lane because although you’ve got a nice big car, there are others driving small-not-so-powerful-but-faster cars than yours who are using the fast lane. Please do move over.


At the same time hey, like cars, maybe you’ve got hidden potentials in you that you have yet to live up to!

Momentary aches.

Have you ever had those moments of heartaches that last long enough for you to feel and remember it, but not to be broken by it?


Those momentary aches that I feel when I step into my car to drive out into darkness, to where work awaits; when I look at my mum’s face and wonder if she was slightly tearing or just looking ahead at me as I leave. I would never know because she would never tell me, and I could never tell as she stands under the shadow of the road lamp, watching me as I drive into the night.


It aches because I want to put everything down and go back home to Ipoh for a little bit longer, but I couldn’t. It aches because I remember that she’s home almost alone, living in the memories of another person, accompanied only by a little boy and an odd dog who is ready to leave.


It aches but it’s momentary because it never last for a long time. With every literal distance that I put between myself and my home, my sadness and this momentary ache of mine slowly evaporates. The strength of my momentary ache is inversely proportional to the distance between myself and my home. Fondness develops, but the strong emotions to drop everything and come home etch away slowly, as the excitement of the city and its vibrancy draws me in and embraces me.


But these aches are momentary enough for me to plan ahead for the next trip home. Momentary enough to remind me of my priorities, enough to remember that someone needs and remembers me at home. Momentary, but not long lasting, to give me the needed fuel at work, until the next time home.


The irony of all this is that I’m posting this up while listening to a really upbeat coke high song on Spotify.  Ain’t life exciting?



It was only two months ago.

It was only two months ago, but it felt like it happened a long long time ago and I could still remember. I could still remember … the last time when he came up to Penang was with mom, nearing the end of 2013, 5 to 6 months into his cancer diagnosis. I wonder if he felt the pain then. And if he did, I wonder how he suppressed the pain so well that I didn’t realize. He slept so well in the car. But I also wonder, did I overlook his fatigue, simply brushing it aside as an old person’s shenanigan? Or if I had been too zestful in insisting for them to travel in their old ages, forgetting that he loved the comfort of home and really just wanted to be home?

I wonder.

It was only two months ago, but it felt like it happened a long long time ago. And I, I have been keeping busy. Keeping busy, because that’s how things were before. Keeping busy, because I should be. Keeping busy, because that’s my coping mechanism.

But memories. Memories are tricky because they are of one entity which tries to be in a few places at one time. They are tricky because they are sly and devious, learning to stay away when they know that the mind too focused to be distracted. But they take their chances, flooding in at the mind, attacking at the least expected moments – challenged and encouraged by the thought of something as small as remembering when was the last time mom came up to Penang. And there, memories take charge. They roll back the sequence of events as quick as they could lest the mind forgets, bringing it through the tunnels of time, affording only a touch-and-go at each event lest the mind strays off at the instance of a distraction, leaving one to grasp at how much has happened since then. Memories only needed one stimulus and bam, the mind has everything that it should remember laid out in the form of hazy recollections.

And I gasped.

I gasped, because my mind grasped for every memory that I could remember of dad. From remembering the last time when mom came to Penang with dad, to wondering if he was comfortable while he was here, to when he told me that his back hurt even when my car went through bumps as the cancer progressed to his bones, to the whole hospital ordeal before, during and after his death.

I gasped, because even though it was only two months ago, the fragility of one’s memory means that it will fade and leave with only trails and footsteps of where it has been.

Two months on, I realize that I have grown up a little bit more. By an inch of the hair maybe. No matter how much I’ve read and heard that death gives a new perspective of life, it’s something else to face it and deal with the little things that accumulate to form the gaping hole of death. Memories remind what the mind forgets. Sometimes, when the death is fresh but yet things seem all too familiar and unchanged, the mind forgets or assumes that things are as usual. But then, memories step in and tells the mind that things have changed. The mind then remembers that responsibilities have shifted and priorities need to be sharpened. Family needs to be taken care off and support needs to be identified. That God is in control.

But like I said, death is a gaping hole of small things. The mind forgets and has to be reminded over and over again. And with each reminder, the memories go through the same procedure of bringing one back and forth in time.

I have grown up a little bit more because I have learned that this is how death is to the living, no matter how much one anticipated the death. That it’s about memories and dealing with the memories…because as the cliché goes, memories are all that remain after the body and soul are gone.


I guess pictures stay too, for memories sake.

Of heroes and bosses

It’s true when they say that teaching and learning in the classroom is actually a two way relationship.  The teacher learns about the present from the students, while the students learn about the future from the teacher.  Here are two stories from week 2 and week 3 of school that taught me what it meant to have heroes and bosses.

1) I never had a particular hero in my life.  Before last week, my perception had been that a hero needs to be perfect and flawless.  There are many people whom I have high regards for but they are never my heroes because my judgements have found loopholes in their reasonings and flaws in personalities.  This doesn’t mean I don’t except them for who they are but it’s just that they’ll not be my…heroes.

But after last week, I realized that I don’t need my heroes to be perfect and flawless.  I realized that all I needed to see for myself in my heroes is their desire to live tough lives with bright smiles on their faces.  I realized that what I want to see and admire in my heroes are their grit, courage and a genuine zest to have better lives, despite of their pasts and burdens.   And the thought came to me after a very short conversation with my students that left me thinking about life.

There were these 2 boys in my 1B class (they have since transferred to a better school, good for them) and they grow up in a nearby home that takes in children from difficult family backgrounds.  Their names are Cheng Hoe (“Teacher, you can call me Hoe”, I was told on the first day) and Kian Seng (friends called him O.K. Seng).  They were the cili padis of the class; plump and petite, sarcastic but very witty, with very bright foreseeable futures.  A few days before they transferred to another school, I asked them why they are living in homes.  Very nonchalantly, one told me that his mother “passed away already” and the other’s mother “run away”.  Both have fathers but they are probably better of living in the home than other places they could possibly be.

It was comical to hear that from them because they told me about their mothers in a flippant manner that I didn’t expect when one talked about mothers.  But I was surprised because it made me see that beneath their cheerful faces and witty remarks lie a darker reality of life that they go through.  I mean, they are the most confident and rambunctious bunch of students I have taught thus far.  I am sure many other people out there have family backgrounds similar to theirs but having to hear of these stories personally related to me struck a chord in my heart and increased my respect for them.  For their zest to live, for their confidence in themselves, for the life lesson that they have taught me, for the timely reminder that these life stories do come by when I ask and even the little ones have stories to tell.

After last week, I find myself saying to myself that these two boys are my little heroes and that of all the places my heroes could come from, they come from my one of my classrooms.


I have such cute heroes…

2) Like heroes, I’ve never really considered anyone human as my boss(es).  Well, at least not for the time being.  The government is my boss because I am to report to them, but since I am indispensable for now and no one really monitors what I do in the classroom, I am my own boss.  Like what they teach us in classroom management classes, I am the boss/CEO of my class.

But this week, one of my students reminded me who my real bosses are.  At the end of my English lesson on Monday, one of my students noticed that we didn’t get to the last item (which was to talk about their journals) on our lesson agenda.  The class was a little rowdy and it took some time for me to get everyone seated and ready for class.  Hence, the unfinished agenda.  I explained that to the boy, to which he replied in Mandarin, that “Teacher, you couldn’t control us, that’s why we couldn’t get to talk about our journals.” I.e. “Teacher, your classroom management skills are terrible!”

I was shocked.  Part of me was like, “How dare you say that when you didn’t know, in the very least, the work I put into preparing for your lessons? You…KID!” A bigger part of me was in shock because it went through a paralyzing moment of realization.  A moment that went like “Oh my goodness…One of my bosses have spoken.  He’s my stakeholder. I’m responsible for his learning …. SO WHY oh why am I shocked at his comment?!”  The rest of me was trying to think about what I should be doing about what he said, that I really need to have better classroom management, that I should have spent more time thinking about these little things that truly matter.

See, the paralyzing moment of realization is this – in all the hours that I have spent talking about the various stakeholders involved in my teaching career, I still see all my students as kids, as a group of people with reasonings that are uncouth, young and immature.  In the 40 hours that I have spent with my students every week, how many hours have I spent listening to them and their opinions in order for my lessons to be fine tuned according to their needs?  Very little, I am afraid.  Even when I know that these minions of mine are stakeholders, I seldom consider them as stakeholders until this boy had spoken up.

And whatever he said to me was a good wake up call to shake me out of complacency and from settling into a teacher’s comfort zone.  You have no idea how embarrassed I was when he told me that I have bad classroom management.


… and bosses.

To think that all these important life lessons I need to learn, I learned it from my encounters with kids 10 years younger than me.

My school visit in HK and some New Year thoughts

I had the privilege of visiting two schools while I was in Hong Kong – Diocesan Girl’s School (DGS) and Island School. DGS is one of the top private girls’ schools (if not the top) while Island School is the oldest international school in HK.

When I visited DGS, they were having some sort of “mini” Christmas bazaar. I said “mini” because it was far from being small and humble, and because what I saw were hundreds of people in the school compound, visiting about 50 (or more) stalls! Many things caught my attention but there were two things that stood out.


Diocesan Girl’s School, Kowloon, HK


A classroom in Island School. The girl was preparing for her Game’s Club and was pleasantly surprised when two Island School alumni greeted her.

1) In the hundreds that I saw that day, approximately 50% of them were parents of the students. And 50% is a modest estimation. 50% would mean that there were probably 100 parents roaming about in the school that day.

They weren’t roaming around aimlessly. There were parents manning the stalls, parents shouting over heads to ask where their kids’ stalls were, parents standing at the side with bags and bags of goodies (the husbands, no doubt), parents chatting with other parents, parents helping their kids to get more customers for their stalls, parents etc etc. Actually, not just parents. I even saw some grandparents eating with their grandkids in the gym.


Okay, maybe I lied. Maybe the guy at the centre of this picture was roaming around aimlessly.

2) I looked at the girls in DGS and I could see that they have the world in their hands. Like literally. They had a sense of youthful exuberance with sky rocketing confidence that was wonderful to for me watch. It was in the way they proudly promoted their stalls, the way they stood around feeling very much that they belonged to a great school, the loud chatters about the success of their stalls, the sure voice of the school DJ sounded over the school radio. School pride and confidence – it was in everything that they did that day.

I was in stalker mode because I was quite jealous of them. Really. I mean, I would like to think that I was once like that and it was quite amazing to feel that I was quite at the top of the world with all my future options laid out in reachable distances before me.  When I saw those girls, I saw that they were at the top of their worlds and eons ahead of many of their peers in other parts of the world.


Girls teaching each other to make towel puppies. Or something of that sort.

I saw that they could be anything that they wanted to be in the future and I saw so many bright futures, that it was quite blinding.  I saw so much hope in store for them, that it took my breath away for a minute.

“So, that’s how it feels to teach students with great futures ahead of them.”

To sum up how I felt, I would say that I was quite bewildered. Why? Because my mind was racing to capture memories of a totally different school environment, a new world where parents were so invested in education, where school looked like university and where teachers and students were all bursting with school pride (because only the best gets in).

I was bewildered because … I realized that in the place where I am, we are so far from achieving something like this.  I realized that I lack of a vision of the high standard of education that I want to achieve for my students, that I haven’t been hoping for them and that many of them have been robbed of their futures.  I realized that I’m getting a little too used to my little school, where numbers (for anything) are small and pride isn’t something that’s in everyone’s vocabulary.

So here are my new year’s thoughts.  I have one more year of school.  One more year of opportunities.  One more year of hoping, one more year to remind them of their potentially bright futures.  One more year.  And it is my goal that by the end of the one year, if I work hard and smart enough, maybe I’ll be able to say that “I saw so many bright futures, that it was quite blinding.  I saw so much hope in store for them, that it took my breath away.”

Here’s to a better future for Malaysia. (ceh wah, like a politician!) Have a great start to 2014, everyone!


#35 One, two, three…


Because we need more than one.  Maybe two, maybe three or maybe four.

We need more than one because we are made to relate to and relate with others.

We are made to sit, stand, walk and run along side others.

We are made to talk to ourselves and others.

We are made to laugh at ourselves, at and with others.

We are made to argue within ourselves and with others.

A myriad of emotions expressed, from ourselves for others to see.

For this to happen, we need more than one.