Monday, August 22, 2011

TIBDC pt 2

The month of August offers way more than high temperatures and students returning to school. Living in a predominant Muslim state, Ramadhan is a way of life. Ramadhan is the month long period that Muslims fast for spiritual and mental cleansing and healing. Traditionally, Muslim Malays start fasting at age 7 and fast from 5:30 in the morning until about 7:30pm. When Ramadhan first began on Aug. 1, I could see an immediate change in my students, the teachers, and the way life was conducted here in KT. Firstly, everything sloooooooowed down. The schedule at school was cut by about 15 mins, teachers left early, there is less traffic during the day, restaurants are closed throughout the day, and businesses have more of a laid back attitude. (Just thinking: I wonder if crime increases or decreases during Ramadhan. You might think that because people aren’t eating throughout the day, who would have energy to commit a crime? Or adversely, because things are slower criminals might think they can get away with more because police are not out as much). My students have been falling asleep more in class than ever! They have no energy therefore trying to get them to focus on certain tasks is a task. I cut back on all my outside activities and many of the activities where I have them moving around. Amazingly so, I have had no students who have complained of a sickness. Extreme fatigue has been the only culprit in addressing the students in class. “Sir, I am very tired today.”

“Why are you so tired?” I ask.

“I didn’t eat breakfast this morning” or “ I’m hungry and thirsty” they always reply.

What I don’t understand is WHY would you fast while sitting for exams that determine class and school placement. There is no doubt that consuming food is beneficial for many nutritious reasons and is imperative for any healthy brain. Just goes to show you that I don’t know and understand everything. If I propose a scientific fact or theory as to why food is helpful for brain power, I am met with stories from the Quran-an about how Allah said that all should fast for reasons pertaining to being a Muslim. How do I argue with someone about their religion and beliefs? I am then asked “Why don’t you fast?”

“I have fasted before(not for long) for mental and spiritual connection with myself and God” I reply. I also explain how I don’t always fast on just food. It is possible to fast on other daily routines. “Sometimes if I fast, I turn off the TV and read a book. I might stop eating a certain food for a while or instead of driving the car I ride a bike or walk.”

“But sir, that’s not the same. “ The most interesting question and response is if I am talking to a student, teacher, or local and they ask “are you fasting today” and if I say “no not today”, the response is “Ohhhh, well try tomorrow.” When they say it they look so disappointed in me as if I had let them down somehow.

Secondly, I have never seen so many markets at 5pm. On any given day the Bazaar Ramadhan can see as much as a couple thousand people pass through its entrance way. It seems like on every corner there is a market for all those who wish to buy food for the berbuka puasa or “breaking the fast” meal. With this many people out I raised the question how do the restaurants and food stalls compete with the markets. The students and teachers told me that the restaurants and food stall owners close the shops and serve food at the market. So essentially they are not losing money but making money in the end. I thought that sense these places aren’t open during the day and well into the evening that they would end up losing money. A very interesting concept as food is in high demand in the evening and it’s guaranteed that people will buy food at night.

Earlier I mentioned that the students and teachers will ask me if I am fasting. If I say yes it is like it’s a major breakthrough for them. Their reaction is of such jubilation and surprise that often it catches me off guard. Once when I fasted for a good part of the day I told a student and teacher who had asked and they almost in sync replied “very good very good, I am so proud of you.” Now, if my reply is no then I can see their cheek bones lower almost to their feet. “That’s ok, maybe you can try tomorrow.” I ask them is it something wrong with me not fasting and they say no because I am not a Muslim. I then explain that Christians(me) fast as well while at home. “Fasting is mentioned in the Bible” I say. “ Fasting is mentioned in the Bible as a way to receive God’s authority in His kingdom. Fasting is beneficial for many things: we receive spiritual cleansing, our spiritual eyes are opened, and it builds our faith, just to name a few.

“Ohh, but sir you are drinking water, so how is that fasting?”

“The Bible says that when Jesus fasted he drank water but did not eat food.”

Their whole expression changes as if I am making excuses. It’s hard not to be just like you all are being influenced beyond belief and you need to be more open minded. Instead, it’s another moment used for teaching. See this is how I know I am growing as a person. At one point, I might’ve made a remark in retaliation against that type of ignorance. Personal satisfaction from “educating” the person would’ve been more than enough to get my point across. Now, I look at it like “wow, be the positive influence on somebody that changes the world.” As my man Wale stated “I’m not saying I will change the world, but I guarantee I will spark the brain that will change the world.” I truly believe that because these kids are going places. I can tell just from my conversations with them on life. They are very motivated and ambitious and they are focused. Many of them come from very poor households and its hunger that drives them-hunger to be the best, hunger to get away, hunger to succeed. I like to think that I am having that type of influence on them. Today, when I was leaving school there were a group of students huddled around a bench and I went over and sat with them. A teacher came over, greeted me and asked “puasa hari ini?”(Fasting today?)

I told him that today I had not eaten anything so essentially that’s a type of fast but not intentionally fasting. He thanked me for “respecting his religion and fasting.” Initially I wasn’t sure if he was being sarcastic or not. The students didn’t start laughing so I took that as him being serious. Usually, if the teacher says something sarcastic to me, then the kids will react to it in some way. I told him(respectfully of course) that I respecting religion doesn’t have to do necessarily with complying with what everyone who is Muslim is doing(fasting) and that it comes from understanding. I can respect and disrespect religion in many ways and me fasting doesn’t necessarily mean I would be respecting it. Respecting it comes from me understanding why you all fast, why you pray, why you believe its haram to eat pork not participating in religious activities. So then I posed the question to him “would it be disrespectful if I asked you to come to church with me? I would just want to offer you another religious perspective with no intentions of trying to convert you.”

“ No, I don’t think so but I don’t think I would go.”

“Why not? This would be a chance for you to gain knowledge about a certain experience.”

“Well Muslims can go to the church but.......”

I left it alone because I could see that this would turn out to be a going back and forth battle with him Now I’m not sure what the Quran-an says about going to other religions houses of prayer so I questioned them. . I asked the students was it wrong for him to go to a church and they also said that there are different accounts on whether or not this is permissible. Besides that I asked them can they read the Bible and they replied only to validate the Quran-an. Basically, they were comparing its teachings against the Bible and if the stories match then that part of the Bible is true and if not then it is false.

I told them that was fine if that’s what they believed but don’t read it to validate another book. Read it to see how different or the same the two are. Read it to be able to have an intelligent discussion with someone regarding the subject matter.

The 2011 English Camp at Semarak Aruni was a HUGE SUCCESS! Each year, ETAs are required to host a joint English camp with another ETA’s school. I decided to host mine with SMK Dato Razali Ismail(Billy’s school) at Semarak Aruni Beach Resort in Marang. We were told to submit a working proposal back in April and that would serve the purpose of receiving the necessary funds in time. Well even with meeting that deadline we were still not able to secure all necessary funds on time. While we were planning the camp we decided to cut out all the conventional writing, reading, and other rote learning techniques used and to just simply, have fun. That turned out to be the best decision in the long run as we received positive feedback from our mentors and more importantly, the students.

Lynn hosted a Muslim fashion show at her school in July. It was the biggest event in Terengganu since Independence Day in 1957(just joking) BUT it was a huge event! I believe she wanted to show people that Muslim women all over the world can be beautiful people with different types of styles. The girls looked very confident as I think she showed them a different concept of fashion. Not just Muslim fashion but fashion. That is when I think we are at our best as teachers. We are able to show the students and teachers what we are passionate about i.e. teaching, talking, listening, being proactive in their lives. Mrs. Elharake, you are an angel. I had so much fun with you and glad that I had a chance to finally meet you. Everybody she flew from the states to help her daughter, Lynn, with the show and it was a HIT!!! THANK YOU

The first weekend of Ramadhan I was invited to one of my students’ house for Berbuka Puasa in Dungun which is about one and a half hours away. I ended bringing to other ETA’s and a friend of ours with me. The student, “Mat”, is one of my favorite people that I’ve met here for many reasons. He is a Form 5 student(18 yrs.) who used to live in school. Talking to him is many ways a refreshing change of pace. He is very open minded in terms of other cultures, religions, and many social aspects of life. Many times I talk to him about his take on why students at SMAASZA are so shy, why girls and boys separate themselves, and why integrating social dynamics in class is a must for anyone’s success. We met his mother and father at their homestay-like-house. His father recently suffered a stroke so he doesn’t have full mobility of his left side. Talking to him you would never be able to tell. He is a very determined person and a part-time comedian on the side. His mother speaks English very well as she was a teacher in Kuala Lumpur. Mat walked us to his father’s orchard behind their house. They had many fruit trees that unfortunately weren’t in bloom because of the season. The only things that were more abundant than the trees were the mosquitoes. MY GOSH, at some points I’m sure it looked as if I was dancing. After we finished giving blood at the free clinic, we rode to the Bazaar Ramadhan. It was HUGE, about a football field long and wide full of food stalls. Needless to say, we brought enough food back to feed us for a couple of days. It was so much food in fact there were bowls of buffalo meat, squid, fish, chicken, rice, vegetables and many other delicious types of foods. I must’ve eaten 4 plates. As they finished eating they looked at me in awe. I told them I have a weight problem. They didn’t believe me and I said “yea I do, I can’t wait to eat”. We laughed and enjoyed each other’s company! THANK YOU MAT AND FAMILY

I don’t think that I’ve mentioned this but I only have 2 months left!

I don’t think that I’ve mentioned this but I only have 2 months left!

I don’t think that I’ve mentioned this but I only have 2 months left!

I don’t think that I’ve mentioned this but I only have 2 months left!

I mean where did the year go. A couple of months ago I was telling you about how I’m halfway there and that I was sure this was going to go fast. I didn’t think that fast was going to be that fast though. So currently, I am looking for a job, going to Korea in 3 days!!!!, planning a career fair, trip to Gambang Waterpark, applying to school next fall, and praying that I can will continue to be blessed to be able to write blog posts. As one of the smooooooooothest rhythm plays, the song SpottieOttieDopaliscious, I can’t help but to think about what the last two remaining months will have in store. What’s next? I don’t know but this teaching thing is cool. I enjoy it a lot. Each student offers something different which is a reward in itself. Keep me in your prayers!

Toni is the

OK, since June 24(last entry) I have been involved in soooo much. From playing in a basketball tournament and conducting my second English Extravaganza Week  to Berbuka Puasa (breaking fast) with a student and my mentor I have been through a lot. I feel these last couple of months have been the quintessential culture exchanging months. The month of June was concluded with a trip to the most famous island and beach in Terengganu, Pulau (island) Redang. This was the last of our three trips with SUK (Education Dept. of Terengganu). What I thought was going to be a weekend bogged down with meetings reiterating activities that we had conducted actually turned out to be nothing but fun. We went snorkeling, did karaoke, jungle trekking, and just enjoyed each other’s company. The beach was as beautiful as the stories I’ve heard. The resort, boasted a magnificent buffet and dinner. To me, the dinner was the best part of the trip. They gave us plates, they gave us forks and spoons and they gave us an open fire bbq. There were steaks, lamb, corn, squid, chicken, rice, fruit, shrimp and countless other bbq favorites. The food was delicious and afterwards we went out and experienced some of the nightlife that Redang has to offer.

As I continue to pursue communication improvements amongst the students I conducted another English week. This time for my English Extravaganza Week #2 implemented new activities that promoted confidence, speaking skills, vocab, critical thinking, teamwork and most important FUN. The theme was Sports, Hollywood, and Food. To promote the week’s activity I held a drawing contest where students competed for a cash prize by drawing their own depiction of the theme. The students are very talented as some of these drawings drew interest from teachers and me alike. They were so good in fact that I awarded two participants as the joint winners. They were both creative and colorful. Their concept of integrating all three together worked very well. There were three activities: Sticky Situations, Losing Your Marbles, and Lights, Camera, Action. Each focusing on a different skill and interactive method. The first, Sticky Situations, involved the students answering timed questions about vocab, trivial facts, or parts of speech. In their groups of 3, each student had a different task. The first student would be the only person that could communicate to me. The second person was the “middle man” in that he/she could only think of answers and help the first. The third person, the sampler, was the person who ate the food. So if the 1st and 2nd person did not the answer the question correctly, the 3rd would have to eat a combination of marshmallows and peanut butter, hence Sticky Situations. Also, if the group did not answer the question the fastest then the 2nd person would also have to eat the peanut butter and marshmallows. It goes without saying that this was definitely a funny event. After the first or second dose of the sticky combination I constantly heard, “sir….no more, please.” The second activity, Losing Your Marbles was a scavenger hunt. I gave each group of 5 a set of clues that correlated with a puzzle piece. Once the groups solved the clues they were instructed to report back to me and fill in the blanks to the clue. I picked locations around the school to hide the pieces. The answer to the clue was where was it was hidden. For example: 

Serves many many things

Like nasi and daging

You can find these foods and more

In your school’s               .

The answer is canteen. So once they figured out the clue, they rushed to the location completed the question or task associated with it. For example: identify the part of speech, create your own alliterative poem, name words that rhyme with…, or kick these three soccer balls into the goal then  run a lap(just for laughs).  Once the groups returned with the correct response to the clue and all correct answers they participated in a ping pong ball race. The team had to perform a relay where they transported a ping pong ball back and forth. Needless to say this was the funniest moment of the whole activity. Groups were dropping the balls, cheating by carrying the balls, worrying about other groups, and tried to distract the other participants. One group tried kicking the ping pong ball on the ground once they dropped it as oppose to starting over which is what they were instructed to do. It was SO much uproar about who cheated that I was going to cancel the whole activity because at one point EVERYBODY was cheating. Man, I tell you….tell the kids that the prize is a trip to Gambang Waterpark and they lose it!! Eventually, I had to stop and talk to them about sportsmanship also. It got through because I gave them a second chance and it was like it wasn’t even a competition anymore. I was like, I never said you couldn’t cheer on your team or have fun but just don’t kick the other team’s ball if they dropped it. The last activity, Lights, Camera, Action!, initially saw over 40 contestants sign up for the acting activity. I’m not sure if they thought agents from Hollywood were going to be there but the pressure got to them. When I opened the doors I only had 12 people show up. Groups consisted of 4 students and they had to come up with their own creative skit. There were 3 groups and 2 of them did similar acts. I think it was because a lack of planning on their part because once I said “Lights, Camera, Action” they were in the corner delegating parts of the act. The winning group was late(they had class) but after the first two groups went I was willing to let anybody try. Not only were they prepared but they were great. FORM 3!!!!! They did a skit on world peace and the environment. It was well thought out, great acting, and entertaining. It was so good a member from another group came and said “Sir, they won didn’t they”. I couldn’t do anything but laugh.

One problem that I am facing now is funding. I have a lot planned for my students and the school but I’m coming to realize that I will not be able to do half of them. I have written proposals, asked for help, and spoke with administrators and committee councils for funding. They just don’t have it. The winners of my two EEW(Engl. Extravaganza week) activities have asked me when were they going on the trip. When we first briefed about funding and asking for money we were told that there is separate monies allotted for the program and its activities. I was banking on that to come through for these end of the year trips and activities with my students instead I have to cut back on what I plan. I have found myself partially paying for many of the activities. I don’t mind doing that at all because we are having fun and we are learning from each other. I just wish that some of the other more pertinent tasks could get completed and money was not a limiting factor. I guess everywhere you go has potential or already is being subjugated to fiscal spending.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Let's Get It Together

When I first started writing in the blog back in January (wow, January…I have been here since January!!) I had an entry for every day. Soon that was reduced to every other day to once a week. My last couple of entries have come rather sporadically.  My last entry in the blog being almost two months ago, I it has been an event filled last couple of months.  I have not lost my motivation for writing or my passion for telling my story-instead I have become almost at once, busy. I had the pleasure of meeting  Mrs. Nada ElHarake (Lynn’s mother) 3 weeks ago. She was here visiting her daughter and to help her with her fashion show. As one of my most avid readers, she told me that I had not posted a blog in a while and that she enjoys reading them. I actually started composing my next entry; however, was side tracked by the daily demands of school and other projects I have going on. So….I apologize. It’s amazing how you can write something and so many people or so little people can read it. While I’m at school I read the local newspaper and almost every day there is an article about the how Malaysia wants to be a “major power” in education and economy by 2020. There are many articles about how English needs to be taught more efficiently within the schools at all levels.  Then I flip the page and read about how a transsexual who recently passed was not granted the right to change his name to a female name.  Syrian troops move in and kill more rebels, Mubarak is awaiting trial, London riots because a man was shot and they are unhappy with the government and a serial killer kills over 70 people in a massacre in Norway. Controversies, scandal, violence, hate-all of which are monopolizing the headlines. I wonder how many people read this paper or any news media outlet. Many times what people read is taken, considered and analyzed and then acted upon prematurely because there is only one source that they are considering. I have touched on this before and how it can lead to being closed minded or miss-educated. Therein lays a problem-a problem that is just not indicative of Malaysia but the entire world. Every time I turn on the TV, there is some story about a major financial, civil, environmental issue that is changing the world for the worse. I have come to the realization that the world is in trouble. The U.S., Syria, Libya, East Africa, Norway, Korea, parts of the UK, Brazil of late, Mexico, Chile and the middle East have all recently been in the headlines for having civil, financial crisis and/or environmental issues surrounding them. The world is………TRIPPIN!!!! Seriously, we as human beings have got to find a peace because where we are heading now we will all be in trouble.

 Being in Malaysia has certainly allowed me to get a different perspective on the world. Since arriving in January (again I’ve been here for 7+ months….wow) there has been an increasing amount of knowledge gained about the world solely because here perspective and reason is different from that of mine or that I hear back at home . With that being said, I have learned that no matter what media outlets are available to people the best source of understanding information is yourself. And not just understanding one source but MULTIPLE SOURCES. Sometimes, I will hear about an event from a student or local while I’m “shooting the breeze” and go back and watch the story on the news or read it in the paper. The majority of the time the stories do contrast in great detail. This is how information is wrongly transitioned from media outlet to person, vice versa or person to person. Educate yourself!