Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Custard Apple Syndrome

Last Sunday morning I had an attack of vertigo. I woke up that morning feeling very fine and went about my daily morning chores as usual. Then, just before breakfast at about 7.45 a.m. I began to experience a slight disorientation. I tried to ignore it but at the back of my mind I knew that I was about to get the attack. I have been having these attacks since 2003, so I know what to expect. True enough, immediately after breakfast it came crashing like a tsunami. The moment my head touched the pillow, the whole world was spinning madly. I had to close my eyes tightly to lessen the spinning effect. Through experience, I avoided moving my head since this would aggravate the spinning further. With my eyes partially closed, I groped for some left-over medicine in my bedside table drawer, prescribed to me during my last attack - betahistine 16mg.

Before I could swallow the medicine, I threw up everything I had for breakfast. Then, I hastily took the medicine and continued lying down quietly with my eyes closed. By 5p.m. I realised that I could turn my head and open my eyes! The spinning was gone. What a relief!  My previous episodes took about 2 days to go off.

I don't really know what triggered the "tsunami". My breakfast that morning and dinner the night before were pretty much the same as all the others before them. However, I did something a bit out of the usual that morning before breakfast. I have a custard apple tree (buah nona in Bahasa Malaysia) in my backyard and I happened to notice there were several ripe ones ready for picking. They were not within reach so I took out a ladder and climbed right to the very top of it to pluck the custard apples.I had to look up to get at the fruits. May be the triggering factor was my rather awkward balancing act on the ladder.

Well, for those of you  who have never experienced vertigo, let me try to describe it. It is a condition when you suddenly experience a severe headache accompanied by a spinning sensation. I know it does not sound very complicated but I tell you, it is simply TERRIBLE.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

"It's Tolerable"

Before I was diagnosed with Hepatitis C (Hep C), I had very little knowledge of the disease. I don't really want to share my experience of the disease, not because I am selfish but I hate to recall the misery that I had to endure for 6 months while undergoing treatment. However, after giving it a second thought, I figure that my story may be useful to all Hep C patients who are currently undergoing  or about to start treatment.

I was not aware that I had hepatitis because  there were no symptoms whatsoever. It was indirectly detected through my routine 6-monthly blood test. There was an abnormality in the reading of my ALT from the liver function test. As a result of this abnormality, the doctor ordered a Hep B and Hep C tests be carried out on me through another blood test. My worst fears were confirmed when I tested positive for Hep C. At this juncture, I was still not fully aware of what was in store for me. Of course, I did what most people would do - surf the internet. I gathered a lot of information about the disease. I thought I was quite prepared to face the challenges. The only thing that haunted me was the condition of my liver. I was terribly scared that my liver had reached the cyrrhosis stage or to put it simply, a stage where the liver is so severely damaged by the virus, that treatment is quite useless.

I was referred to a gastro- enterologist,  at the Hospital Sultanah Bahiyah Alor Star. He ordered more blood tests be carried out explaining that sometimes errors happen during the scanning of the blood sample. I was completely ignorant of what he was trying to explain but I prayed hard that my earlier blood tests results were indeed a mistake. There was a flicker of hope.I had another appointment with him about ten days later and after studying the test results, he told me what I already knew, of course. All hopes were dashed. I had to do another blood test, this time to determine the strain of the virus, more precisely, the genotype. Alor Star hospital has no facilities to carry out this test. My blood sample had to be sent to The Liver Foundation in KL, so I had to wait for about a month for the results to come. The doctor told me that the type and duration of the treatment would depend on the genotype of the virus in my body. I remember asking him about the effects of the treatment and he briefly explained as requested. But, as if to lessen my fear a little , the good doctor (the gasro-enterologist) added "It's tolerable".

While waiting for the results from KL, I had to do a liver biopsy. This is a minor operation where a small incision is made in the abdomen to extract a bit of the liver tissue for the purpose of determining the extent of  damage to the liver. I remember being wheeled into the operation theatre for the biopsy. First they scanned my liver and marked the exact spot for the incision. The lady doctor told me my liver looked good. I was quite happy at this piece of news. Soon after, two male doctors, a Chinese and an Indian, walked in and told me that they would begin the biopsy. Frankly, I was quite scared and I prayed that it would not be painful. The Chinese doctor told me that his friend the Indian doctor would do the biopsy and I just nodded my head. What followed was something quite amusing but at that moment it made me want to jump up and run away. The Chinese doctor was giving instructions on how to use the instrument for the biopsy to the Indian doctor. The Indian doctor was toying around with the instrument, presumably practising how to make the incision and extract the tissue. I was trembling with fear and my heart was beating at an F1 speed, but there was nothing I could do. It would have been a liitle easier on me had they been a little bit more discreet with their " teaching and learning" process. A local anaesthesia was admininistered and the Indian doctor proceeded under the supervision of the Chinese doctor The whole procedure was over in less than 5 minutes and I remember asking "Is that it? ". The Indian doctor answered "Yes, That's it". I was so relieved and exclaimed "Why doc, it's quite painless! " and to which he retorted "Thank you, maam, that's a compliment".

I spoke too soon, for the moment I was wheeled out of the operation theatre, I felt an excruciating pain in the abdominal area. It was very painful and even more intense with every breath I took. I told the nurse to inform the doctor and she left me on the stretcher to seek the doctor's help. After a few minutes she came back and told me that  the doctor said it was quite normal to feel the pain. I was taken back to the ward. Anyway, inspite of the pain, the doctor told me the biopsy was sucessfully carried out without any complications and I was discharged later in the evening. The pain was gone the next morning but like any other operation, minor or major, each time you sneeze or cough or laugh, you feel the pain. After about a week, the pain was completely gone.

The results from the Liver Foundation and the biopsy were revealed to me during my appointment with the good doctor, the gastro enterologist. He told me that my genotype requires a 6-months treatment period and that the biopsy results showed that the damage to my liver was at stage 2.Well, at least it had not reached the much-dreaded cyrrhosis stage!

I started my treatment on the 3rd of March 2008. I was warded one day earlier  so that when they administer the first treatment, they were able to monitor my tolerance to the medication. The gastro enterologist told me if there were no complications, then I could go home the following day. The treatment comprised of  daily oral medication of ribavarin and a weekly injection of interferon. At this point, I knew what to expect. The good doctor told me the effects of these two drugs are headaches, nausea, loss of appetite, loss of weight, loss of hair, tiredness and in some extreme cases, depression sets in. But again, the good doctor  repeated his signature phrase of " It's tolerable".

I was given my first dose of ribavarin and interferon at about 2.30p.m. I remember telling my husband who was with me at the hospital that I felt OK one hour after the medication. Two hours passed and still there were no effects. In fact, I was OK throghout the night and I was confident I could pull through this one. The good doctor came round the next morning to check on my progress and when I told him I felt fine, he warned me that some people took a longer time to experience the effects. Anyway, he was quite satisfied with my progress and he allowed me to go home.

Later that same evening I  began to feel a little dizzy and I realised that the food tasted bitter. By the next morning, I knew for sure that the effects of the medication were slowly but surely taking  its toll on me. I woke up with a terrible headache and felt very weak and drowsy. All foods tasted bitter especially plain drinking water. I told myself that I would eventually get used to these side effects. I read from the internet that slowly your body's tolerance to the drugs would improve. I prayed that my condition would not worsen. Unfortunately. it got worse. Most of the time, I would be lying down, largely due to the constant dizziness that plagued me. I became very weak because I had no desire to eat or drink, everything tasted bland and bitter. Before the treatment, my weight was 49kg. After 2 weks , it went down to 47kg. After much persuasion from my husband and mother, I forced myself to eat a little bit more than what I really wanted.

Every 2 weeks, I had to do the liver function test (LFT) and a full blood check (FBC). Based on these results, the good doctor would then advise me on the dosage to be taken. The medication has a significant effect on the haemoglobin level in the body. If the haemoglobin level gets below 7.0 g/dL, a blood transfusion is deemed necessary. After only 2 weeks of treatment, my ALT reading showed a marked improvement from about 90 U/L  to about 14 U/L. However, my haemoglobin dropped from  about 11 g/dL to 8 g/dL. The sudden drop in haemoglobin contributed to my extreme weakness. I was so weak I was no longer able to climb a short flight of stairs. The good doctor had to juggle between lowering my  ALT reading and  raising my haemoglobin level. I was closely monitored so that he could compromise these 2 variables. I was also losing my hair at an alarming rate. I remember asking the good doctor about this and his reply of " You won't go completely bald" prevented me from pursuing further on this issue. I suppose, to him, semi bald is better than Hep C. Well, I have to agree to that, though reluctantly.

During one of the scheduled appointments, my haemoglobin dropped to 7.2 g/dL. In fact, my headache was so bad, I had to lie down in the good doctor's room while waiting for him to come. He glanced at my blood test results and immediately warded me. Fortunately, when they did another blood test, my haemoglobin went up a bit, 7.8 g/dL. So, I escaped the blood transfusion. I was discharged the next day.

To make matters worse, I had an attack of vertigo in my fourth week of treatment. I thought the headache was bad enough. This was TERRIBLE. The drugs were invading my body with a ruthless vengeance but I guess  I fought back, too. The vertigo went off after 2 weeks and after that I was beginning to show some improvement. I realised then, that my body was beginning to relent  and accept  the drugs.All the side effects were still there but I was slowly  getting used to them. My life was "better" from then on.

Five months after I started the treatment, I developed a severe backache. It was so painful, I could not sit  down at all. The good doctor then referred me to an orthopaedic surgeon. An MRI was performed but no slip discs or bone dislocation were detected. The orthopaedic surgeon told me that this might  be one of the side effects of the Hep C treatment. When I queried about this probability to the  good doctor, he was non-commital. He just smiled. Whatever that means, I don't know. The back ache went off after 1 month. I woke up one morning and discovered that I could sit without feeling any pain.What a relief.

I completed my treatment on the 14th of August 2008. I slowly regained my energy. After a month I was almost back to normal. I got back my crowning glory, thank goodness for that!  To all Hep C patients, just hang on, don't give up. To sum up my experience, I think I will have to borrow the good doctor's cliche of "It's tolerable".


Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Yesterday I learnt something new. I learnt how to upload songs/music to my blog. This is an achievement for me because I did it without any help. I even helped my husband  put a music widget in his blog. To some, this may seem like  kindergarten stuff but to me it is a major breakthrough! I spent days trying to figure out how to do it and when I succeeded, it was a dream come true. I am still at the preliminary stage, though. I am experimenting how to put more songs with only one player (Is this possible?). I hope you understand what I am trying to say. I don't really know how to communicate in computer language. Anyway, until I'm successful again, do enjoy the two songs/music that I have uploaded. Wish me luck.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

In Memory of PPSMI

It saddens me that the government has decided to discontinue PPSMI. After having taught Science and Mathematics for more than thirty years, I must say that the most challenging part of my career was when I had to teach Science and Maths in English. This medium of instruction was not something new to me because when I started my career way back in the mid 70's, English was still the medium of instruction in English-medium schools.

I was teaching at SMK St. Mark's Butterworth, when the government introduced the policy of making Bahasa Malaysia (or is it Bahasa Melayu)  the medium of instruction in all Government schools. Those days we were directed to change to Bahasa Melayu without so much as attending courses in preparation for the switch-over. It was so abrupt, if I remember correctly. Being a Malay, I did not encounter a lot of problems merely getting acquainted with new terminologies. However, the same could not be said of my non- Malay colleagues who were educated in English and had been teaching in English for so long. There were moans and groans but we survived and succeeded, both teachers and students. After a year or so, it became a norm in schools. All the grumblings about the language switch-over came to a halt, at least in the school I was teaching.

Looking back, I marvelled at the speed my non-Malay friends got adapted to the change. Please take note that we were from an era when English was considered an "elite" language.We communicated mainly in English. Some of my  friends sounded very English in class. I don't blame them because all their lives, at least from Standard one, they were exposed to English. However, all these English tendencies and inclinations did not make us any less patriotic than we are now.

When PPSMI was introduced, Maths and Science teachers were required to attend numerous courses and workshops in preparation for the introduction of teaching Maths and Science in English. I lost count on the number of courses I had to attend, some in Alor Star, some in Sungai Petani, some in Langkawi and some in good old Jitra where I reside. It was very hectic. We not only had to attend subject-related courses but also computer courses. All maths and science teahers in my school were  given a laptop and an LCD each. I belive, the same was true in all schools throughout Malaysia. I think most of us were more excited with these gadgets than we were with the prospect of teaching the two subjects in English! But, coupled with this excitement was our constant fear of losing these expensive teaching aids. We were reminded time and again to be extra careful with these items.

I was quite enthusiatic and excited about this PPSMI. For me, it was like going down memory lane once again. I must say that it was not difficult for me to switch back to English but I was not prepared for the challenges that awaited me this time around. It was entirely different from what I was used to when English was still the medium of instruction. I remember conducting my first PPSMI lesson. I was teaching a bunch of students who could not make out head or tail of what I was talking about. They did not understand a single word of what I said. It was very disheartening but I was quite optimistic that they will gradually come to understand the language. However, when I noticed that there was no change for the better, I began to panic. Here I was equipped with all the teaching softwares provided by the Ministry to make  lessons interesting and easy for the students to understand and yet they just stared blankly at me when I asked them questions. It was very, very frustrating.So, I devised a method to make them understand. After I completed a sentence in English, I translated it into Bahasa Melayu. Phew! at the end of every lesson I was competely drained of energy.I not only lost weight, I lost my voice,too.

We were closely monitored by various people from PPD, JPN, KPM and our very own PPSMI school commitee headed by our Principal . There was no way we could cheat by trying to teach in Bahasa Melayu. These officers would just pop in and observe us in the midst of our lessons.I must say it was not a nice experience to have them looking and staring at you and trying to find all the mistakes. I am sure if the situation was reversed, these officers would be no better than us.

Anyway, after one year, when my students were still the same as when they started, my enthusiasm began to dwindle. They refused to communicate in English, partly beacuse they were jeered at each time they tried. This was a rural school and when someone tried to speak English, he or she would be labelled a show-off. Hence, they shut themselves off completely from the language for fear of being ostracised.

We were instructed to set exam questions in both languages and the students were given the liberty to answer in whichever language they prefer. They all answered in Bahasa Melayu.  This, I feel, also contributed to their indifference to the English language.We, teachers, were compelled to teach in English and yet at the end of the day, the students could choose to answer in Bahasa Melayu.

A few years after PPSMI was introduced, everything was still the same. We continued to teach in English and they continued to answer in Bahasa Melayu. My first batch of PPSMI students did quite well in their PMR - over 80% passes but 99% answered in Bahasa Melayu, of course! I realised then, that my translation was quite effective.

Much as I loved teaching Maths and Science in English, I feel that the government is right in abolishing PPSMI because it is not working out as planned, at least not in the school I was teaching. Inspite of what the government had done to ensure that both teachers and students were adequately prepared to face the challenges of  PPSMI, the project failed disastrously. ( This was what I gathered from the local media). I can't help but wonder what went wrong. The government spent millions of ringgit (or is it billions) and yet it was a complete flop. When the government decided to switch over completely to Bahasa Melayu in the late 70's, they were successful. This time around, when only two subjects were involved, logically speaking, it would have been plain sailing. But, sadly, everything failed.

I hope  the much talked about MBM and MBI will not have a sad ending  like PPSMI. I am quite confident that MBM and MBI will be successful because many quarters are happy with this new education policy. Once again, the Ministry will be conducting numerous courses and workshops for the teachers in preparation for the switch over in 2011. We did not have to go through all the training back in the 70's when we changed everything to Bahasa Melayu, and it was successful. History is repeating itself again this time. The difference is that, this time around, teachers will be thoroughly prepared to undertake this new venture. Good luck.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Quick Brown Fox

My husband and I bought our first computer in 1983. We were in Labuan at this time. My husband was attached to the No. 5 Squadron and I was teaching at SMK Labuan. This was a time when computers were still at its infancy in Malaysia, I presume. Nevertheless, everybody seemed to be talking about the many wonders that a computer could do. My computer knowledge at that time was ZERO and it has not improved much since then. Anyway, my husband convinced me that a computer would lessen my workload in preparing  tests and exam questions. I suppose he noticed how I used my two fingers to tap furiously at my Olivetti typewriter until the wee hours of the morning every time a school exam was approaching. I remember asking him how a computer would help me and I think his answer was "You only have to type once and then all the questions will be stored and then you can recycle the questions". That sounded good to me and so we set out to get our computer.

Those days there were not many shops that sell computers in Labuan, may be only one or two. We headed for an electrical shop called Keharsons, very famous then. There was only one computer on display, an NEC model. After staring at it for a few minutes, both of us agreed that it was quite impressive, so we decided to purchase it. The transaction was very fast because we didn't know what to ask and the shop assistant also did not volunteer to supply any information. I suppose he was equally ignorant. My husband paid the bill, about RM2,500, and we headed home to try out our new toy. My husband's philosophy is very simple. Once the property belongs to you, you can experiment with it. He had done so on many occasions like with our refrigerator, TV, VCR, washing machines and countless other electrical items. All that he experimented with were successful and this computer should not be of any problem!

The moment we arrived home, my husband wasted no time in assembling the computer. It went straight to our bedroom and on top a government-issued writing table. The whole ensemble comprised of a CPU, a monitor, a keyboard and an external storage device.There was no mouse. After attaching all the cables and wires and satisfied that everything was according to what was stated in the instruction manual, he switched on the computer and I could see the pride on his face when the monitor screen came to life. He was successful again this time.

The next stage proved a little bit more trickier. He started by testing the keyboard and immediately the characters appeared on screen. Alright, he was getting somewhere. So, my dear husband typed "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" and waited for a few seconds to see what would happen. Nothing happened .He repeated the process and still there was nothing. Equipped with a total ignorance on computers, we were not able to do much that night except to have the satisfaction that we finally owned a computer. My husband confidently promised that everything would be OK tomorrow.

I do not know whether WINDOWS was available at the time we bought the computer, I doubt it. Those days it was WORDSTAR and it was not as user friendly as WINDOWS. In fact, to the both of us, it was not friendly at all! I do not know how many rows of "The quick brown fox......................." my husband typed the following day but he never got any further than that. Finally, out of desperation, he consulted a friend who happened to have just completed a course on computers. This friend lent us a book on computers. Unfortunately, we failed to understand what was described in the book. Finally,after comtemplating on what to do for a few days, we decided that we were not ready for computers yet. So, my husband put everything back in their respective boxes and we set off again to Keharsons, hoping and praying that we could exchange it for something else.

The people at Keharsons agreed to take it back, but at a second hand price, in exchange for some other electrical item. This was good enough for us for we feared that they might not want to accept it at all. There were not many choices. We already possessed the basic electrical gadgets in the house so we settled for an Akai hi-fi  set. We had topay a few hundred ringgit to acquire it and headed straight for home. This time there was no excitement merely a sigh of relief that our mission was accomplished.

Once again my husband took all the components out of their boxes and connected all the cables. He put on a record on the turn table and within seconds, Tom Jones' "Love is in the Air" filled the household. There was a smile of satisfaction on our faces. Why would anyone want a computer. This was a better deal, it was able to provide sweet music for our ears! That was how we consoled ourselves.

So, I went back to my good old Olivetti for many more years after that without any complaints. One day in 1995, I had to attend a  course on preparing Mathematics questions in Port Dickson. We were required to prepare many questions using the computer. It was very embarassing when I had to confess that I did not know to use the computer. From that moment onwards, I decided it was time for me to get acquainted once again with the computer. After returning from Port Dickson, I did not waste any time in enrolling myself in a computer class. It was the beginning of a new chapter in my life. There was no turning back after that.

Fourteen years have passed since then. When the government introduced PPSMI in 2002, all of us, Maths and Science teachers were each given a laptop to enhance our lessons in class. Whether we liked it or not, we had to use it, so, indirectly, we had to learn. My computer literacy has improved but only up to a point where it  serves all my purpose. My husband, on the other hand, was not interested after "The quick brown fox.........." incident. He could only type a letter and print it. That was all the progress that he made UNTIL he started blogging last June. He became so engrossed with this new hobby that inevitably he had to learn how to use it to write his blog. I must say say that he has improved by leaps and bounds. He keeps on bragging that his blog is very colourful compared to mine, which, according to him, is plain and dull. I refrained from retorting that only beginners are excited over colourful fonts and highlights. I passed that stage a long time ago.

About two weeks ago, I decided to get a new netbook, simply because I have no access to my old one since he started blogging. I thought he was going to object to my idea but instead he was all for it. I told him to get one for me but he insisted that I follow him to the shop. When the shop assistant showed us a few models, he kept on nudging me to ask questions about the computer. Honestly, I did not know what to ask and I bet he was equally helpless. So, you see, we have not gone very far since the "The quick brown fox.............."
Incidentally, my Olivetti typewriter has found a comfortable resting place in my closet.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Unsung Heroes

Once again I am called to write  after having read my husband's letter in the Utusan Malaysia dated 3 October 2009. It is indeed a pity that all my husband's efforts in trying to secure an allowance for all PTU recipients are , as at today , all in vain. Under normal circumstances, I am not a fighter by nature, like him, but I feel that I have to voice out my opinions in this particular case. Before I proceed, let it be known to all that we are NOT PAUPERS, far from it,  but I feel that it is my duty to support my husband in his struggle to achieve what he is rightfully entitled to. If , by any chance, he is successful, then I can proudly say that I have contributed my bit towards the issue.

Sometimes it makes me wonder whether the  One Malaysia tag line "Rakyat didahulukan, Pencapaian diutamakan" is, at all, relevant. My husband has already achieved one of the ONLY five categories of bravery awards in the country and to me that  is indeed an achievement which translates into pencapaian. Now why all this sudden furore over this award. The answer to that is purely DISSATISFACTION. My husband is dissatisfied because the relevant party has failed to justify why he should not be given an allowance. If the other two bravery awards, the SP and the PGB are given an allowance , why discriminate the other remaining three. The recipients of PTU, JPP and KPK had also done their bit for the country. May be the degree of  their contribution is less than that of the SP and PGB recipients (this is again a very subjective issue)  but , nevertheless they had exhibited their brave and courageous streak in defending the country. The country has acknowledged their acts by bestowing the awards to them but unfortunately, there is no conformity with regards to the allocation of the allowance that comes with the awards. If, at all, all the five categories of the awards were not to be  monetarily compensated , then I think there is no cause for all this campaign. But when the top two awards are accompanied by a generous allowance then naturally the remaining three categories would want the same treatment accorded to them. IT IS ONLY FAIR.

I am sure many will argue that it is their duty to fight for the country. After all, they are soldiers and soldiers are paid "handsomely" to fight for the country. Very true indeed. But, the bravery awards are only given to those  who go BEYOND their scope of duties. This fact is clearly stipulated as shown in the corresponding link . It is these extracurricular activities that earned them  their medals.

I was very disappointed when I read an e-mail to my husband trying to explain why his quest for the allowance was rejected by the government. According to the e-mail, only the SP and PGB are regarded as "prestigeous" medals and so the recipients are justified in getting their allowance. I can't help but wonder, how and when  these medals came to be catagorised as "prestigious and non-prestigious ". If that is the case, then why did the government created five catagories in the first place. I think the relevant authourities should now put in a proprosal to abolish JPP, PTU and KPK since these three are non-prestigious. That should keep my husband quiet.

Datuk Lee Chong Wei is given an allowance of RM3000 a month for winning a silver medal in the last Olympics. I think all Malaysians will agree with me when I say that he deserves it. I saw the spectacular game on  TV. He displayed a non-compromising attitude when confronting his opponent . I have seen many Malaysian badminton players in action but, in my opinion, Datuk Lee has a very strong fighting spirit. I salute you , Datuk.

In the case of Datuk Lee Chong Wei, it is easy to see what he has done for the country. Most of his games were telecast live throughout the whole of Malaysia and some other parts of the world. We saw how he "fought" to glorify his country not once, not twice but many, many times.

The same analogy is applicable to all those who fought bravely to defend the country but unfortunately their acts of bravery could not be displayed live for all to see. Unlike Datuk Lee, they will never be thrust into the limelight while in action. The nature of their work is often classified 'secret'. Most Malaysians are unaware of what these special breed of people  had to go through to bring peace and harmony to the country. Most Malaysians are unaware of how they sweated and toiled and put their lives at stake to ensure that, Datuk Lee can continue to bring glory to Malaysia, Datuk Nichole Davids can continue to pursue her fifth World Championship title,  Datuk Siti Norhaliza can continue crooning all those beautiful ballads, Datuk Shah Rukh Khan can continue to entertain us through Hindi films, Dr. Faiz can follow in the footsteps of Datuk Dr. Sheikh Muzaffar in space exploration,  and last but not least, so that ordinary folks like me can go about our daily activities without fear of being attacked or bombed by the enemies.  Hence ,is it too much for our "unsung heroes" to ask for a small allowance in return for what they had done for the country. As a wife, I know what my husband and his friends went through during their fight against the communists. It was a period of intense anxiety and stress, to put it mildly. Every time, he was tasked to fly to the border, we could never be sure whether we would ever see him again ALIVE. Many of my husband's friends perished whilst in action and this , in turn, made many of my friends widows and their children, orphans.

Now, readers, you be the judge. And, with that, ladies and gentleman, I rest my case.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Ucapan Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri

My Last School

My last school before I retire was SMK Tunku Seri Indera Putera (SMKTSIP), Jitra. I had taught in many schools throughout East and West Malaysia but SMKTSIP was very special in many ways. It is located in a rural area amidst padi fields. The setting is very picturesque. Every morning, it was a pleasure driving to school because of the panoramic view,sun rising in the horizon, padi fields on both sides of the road, irrigation canals running alongside the very straight road. Sometimes, particularly, after a heavy downpour, the water in the canal would rise to almost the same level as the road. It was pretty scary at first but after some time I still drove at the same speed I would on a normal dry day.

Physically, the school is like any other school in Malaysia. It is a small school compared to all the other schools I had taught before. There were only about 500 students then and now. I remember the first time I went to the school to attend the first staff meeting. Prior to the meeting I called the clerk to find out what time the meeting would start and was told to come at 11a.m. This timing, I felt, was rather odd but then again, this was a new school and I thought Kedahans work in a more leisurely manner compared to their KL counterparts from where I came from. Boy, was I in for a big suprise after this! When I made my appearance, the meeting was about to end. As usual, I had to introduce myself. My accent then was very KLish because I had never stayed in Kedah since I was eight. After the meeting, my new colleagues told me there was a kenduri nearby and they were all going and they wanted me to come along. I was never familiar with this kind of impromptu invitation handed out by the guests to another, not from the actual host! But, I tagged along sheepishly. I am one who takes quite some time to warm up to new surroundings and new friends. At that time, my new friends seemed a bit too boisterous for my liking. I remember wanting to go home as fast as I could.

School began the next day. This was the second time I donned the tudung. I put on the tudung when I attended the meeting. I didn't like what I saw in the mirror but I told myself "this is Jitra, not KL". I was assigned a table in the staff room and I sat down there quietly. I remember missing my former school, former colleagues and students very, very much. I longed for the familiar way of life in KL. Everything seemed strange here in Jitra. My colleagues were too friendly. I was not used to this kind of overly friendliness. In KL, it was more 'mind your own business' kind of life but that was what I was accustomed to for more than 40 years of my life.

I applied for a transfer out of the school the second week I was there, but it was turned down. I was very frustrated but I had no choice. I went on teaching as usual but I was not happy. By this time I think my colleagues must have sensed that something was not right with me. They were courteous and polite but they kept their distance. This went on for one whole year but  the emergence of 2002 saw the true me coming out of my shell. Slowly but surely I began to blend in with my colleagues, joking with them, laughing with them, sharing my joy and sorrow with them. Guys, if you are reading this, I really miss all of you very much. You are all like family to me, every single one of you.

Ooi, I know I can run to you whenever I need help.

Zah, I miss talking to you in English.

Nani, I admire your cool composure.

Nab, I wish I could inherit some of your firmness.

Suroh, you are an angel of sorts.

Tai, I miss your home grown mangoes.

Midah, I miss your chocolate cakes and your pulut kuning and of course, YOU.

Win, you are a picture of elegance in your baju kurung.

Rom, I admire your cool and relaxed manner.

Riza, I wish you are next to me now to correct my grammar. You are my baby sister.

Maznah, I admire your taste in clothes, very contemporary for an ustazah.

Sue, you are a fashion icon.

Ramlah, I miss your spontaneous jokes narrated in a very raw Kedah accent, throaty and nasal at the same time. Very French.

Syon, how could I ever forget our night out together and how we manouvered our way out of the trip to UUM.

Ladies, the above list is an anti-clockwise sitting arrangement in the staff room starting from where I sat,  (if  I remember correctly) certainly not in order of whom I like most, though I like Ooi a lot because she sat next to me and we shared a lot of precious moments together.

To all the male teachers, you are all wonderful. I miss listening to Cikgu Lan's melodious voice crooning some beautiful ballads. Cikgu Zamri passed on some useful tips on how to tie a ribbon. I will never forget the incident when I dropped a bunch of house keys in front of Cikgu Man's house and he returned the keys AFTER I changed all the locks in my house. Very timely, indeed!!! Sir Jamal, I will always be grateful to you for passing on a lot of useful knowledge on ICT. Cikgu Hasdi came to my rescue many times when I had problems with the computer. Bang Cik and Mas, thank you for helping me around in the laboratory. Suhaimi and Khairul, terima kasih kerana banyak membantu Kak Fini fotostat bahan-bahan. Fauziah, thank you for processing my retirement papers.  I will always remember Zah, Syidah and Timah. Last, but not least, thank you Datin and Puan Hasnah.

I remember uttering"Out of sight, out of mind" to my good friend Ooi many times whenever a colleague was transferred out. She never responded to my retort. Intuitively I knew she did not agree but she refrained from saying so. It was not because I had a disliking  for all the friends who were posted out, but at that time I felt that that was reality . Now, however, I realise  hat I was very,very wrong. You are all out of my sight for almost 18 months now but you are all NEVER, EVER OUT OF MY MIND. I miss you all very, very much.

Please click the link below.

Friday, September 4, 2009


As the wife of a TUDM personnel, I had my fair share of flying experiences, as a passenger, of course! I had the opportunity to fly in various types of aircraft when my husband, Mej (B) Nor Ibrahim was serving as a nuri pilot. The priveledge that I had was not due to the fact that my husband was a pilot but mainly because we, being wives of TUDM personnel, were automatically members of Badan Kebajikan Angkatan Tentera , in short, BAKAT. During my husband's tour as an air force pilot, BAKAT was rather active. I believe it is equally active now as it was then. During my time, we had to attend all BAKAT activities, sometimes as often as every week. This can be rather taxing on working wives but we had no choice. Otherwise, our husbands would be summoned by their superior officers and had to answer on our behalf!Well, at that time, there was no 'kebebasan bersuara' yet!

As the saying goes, 'If you can't change them, you join them'. Well, that was exactly what I did. After a lot of throwing tantrums at my husband, I decided that I had to change. I put myself in full gear and became an active BAKAT member. It was not so bad after all. Besides my working colleagues, I now had many BAKAT friends. Along with friends, came the numerous activities.
One of these which I enjoyed most was dancing. During my husband's tour in Kuantan, our dancing group became very popular. Our specialty was the tarian 'Ulek Mayang'. We were requested to perform the dance on many occasions. As a reward, well, you guessed it , we were given rides on the various aircraft. Of course, it was not a joyride, so to speak, but when our dancing troupe had to travel, we were given the best aircrafts available then. We travelled to KL from Kuantan in the HS 125, VVIP executive jet, then. We travelled to Bali in a VVIP aircraft then, the F28. We also had the opportunity to fly in the Hercules, the Maritime version. The pilot of the Maritime allowed us to enter the cockpit during flight. It was awesome.

That's me, in front, doing the 'Ulek Mayang'
When my husband was posted to Labuan, we flew in the Hercules. This was not my first flying experience in this aircraft having flown in the Maritime before but it was very different indeed. I felt like an evacuee being rescued from a war-torn nation. The seats were all like hammocks to me and we were all seated alongside the body of the aircraft. In other words, our sides were facing the cockpit and we faced the passengers along the other side of the aircraft. Now, can you imagine what it was like when the aircraft was taking off. Wow, we all swayed towards the tail end of the aircraft. There was no way you could prevent yourself from falling over to the passenger next to you. Of course. we all swayed the other way when the aircraft was coming to a land. Throughout the three-hour flight, we can only communicate using the sign language because the aircraft was not sound proof. Then, to top it all up, one of the air-crew would climb onto the hammock seats with a torch light in one hand peering into.............heaven knows what!
Before I forget, prior to boarding the aircraft, my husband warned me to ease myself. I dicovered to my horror, there was only a makeshift toilet in the aircraft and we had to manouvre our way up the narrow aisle to reach it. By the time we reached it , our bladders would have given way!Phew! it was indeed a relief when the aircraft landed. When I stepped out of the aircraft, I felt like a drunkard, temporarily deaf from the droning of the engines.

I also had the chance to fly in the nuri piloted by my husband. The flight was from Labuan to Pontianak, Indonesia. Of course, the passengers were BAKAT Udara Labuan members. It was pretty scary because the flight was rather choppy due to heavy rain. All of us were very quiet and we kept praying that we landed safely. We could see the very thick jungle below us and I remember we held each others hands firmly for moral ssupport. The only lady passenger who was very calm was YM Tengku Marina. She was the wife of the highest ranking officer in the aircraft and I suppose, she had to remain cool in order to prevent us from panicking. Well, Kak Engku, if you are reading this, I admire your courage. We landed safely alright and I remember asking my husband whether we were in any danger during the flight. His answer was ' What danger! It was a smooth flight'. Smooth indeed.

Before boarding the nuri for Pontianak

I also had the chance to fly in the Caribou, again with BAKAT members. The flight was from Kuching to Labuan. To us, BAKAT members, to fly in a Caribou was not something we looked forward to. Somehow, we had the perception that it was an old aircraft and therefore not very safe to fly in. But we had no choice. You must remember that at this time I was no longer with my often sought after Kuantan dancing troupe. We were just ordinary Labuan BAKAT members so we did not get to travel in VIP arcrafts. Every time we were given the opportunity to travel we jumped at it without thinking about the mode of transport. As always, all of us were laden with the fruits of our shopping spree. I remember the pilot of the Caribou telling us that the aircraft was overweight due to our extra shopping baggage. I was not sure whether he was joking or not. We knew all the pilots and copilots quite well because we were all neighbours in the same camp. I remember approaching the pilot and asking him whether we were really overweight. I know it was unethical but I could not help myself. I had to be sure. His answer was ' No problem. If it's too heavy we'll just throw some out from mid air' . I knew then, that we were not overweight and told all my friends so. However, our anxiety did not end there. A few minutes after taking off, my friend, Nancy, who was sitting next to me pointed out what was happenning outside the window. We knew that moments after take-off, the landing gear would be retracted. But now, suddenly, the landing gear was out again. She looked at me and I at her. Now I was wondering whether we were really overweight! Then, it was retracted again. The process went on several times. We landed safely at Labuan. I refrained from asking the pilot why the landing gear went in and out several times. The thought that we were all safe and sound was all that matters.

I also had the chance to fly in the Allouette. It is a small 5-seater helicopter. The flight was from Labuan to Kota Kinabalu. It was a short flight of about 30 minutes only but the experience was exhilarating. Why? To me, it was like a flying carpet! I could see all round, left, right, up and down. The Allouette has a very wide hemispherical windscreen which allows unrestricted vision in all directions. Though the flight was very short, it was worth it. After all, not every body gets to be Alladdin on a flying carpet!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Retirement Blues

I used to wonder what life would be during retirement. I dreaded the day when I had to retire. One month before the scheduled date, I was hospitalised. I was diagnosed with hepatitis C a few months earlier and after a series of tests, I was told I had to start my treatment.

I was given medical leave the moment I started the treatment. So, in actual fact, my retirement started a month earlier. I was really misearable. The treatment comprised of weekly injections and daily oral medication. It made me really sick. Most of the time I felt giddy. I lost my appetite. My haemoglobin level was very low and this made me very tired. I could not climb a short flight of stairs without stopping several times.My hair dropped. Everything tasted bitter and yet I had to eat to increase my haemoglobin. On top of all this I developed vertigo. Every time I turned my head, I had to close my eyes . Otherwise the whole world would spin. The vertigo went on for two weeks. I was terribly misearable. All these were the after effects of the medication not the effects of hepatitis C itself. The effects of hepatitis will only be felt at an advanced stage. I was diagnosed at stage 2.

During the six months of treatment, I made numerous trips to the hospital. I am really grateful to all the nurses and doctors who assisted me during my predicament. I was rather scared that I might not be able to complete the 6-months treatment period inspite of the sufferings I had to endure. The doctor who treated me had already made it clear that if my body could not withstand the effects, then he had to stop the entire treatment and this meant that my hepatitis would not be cured.Nevertheless, with support from friends, relatives and most of all my husband and mother, I completed the treatment on the 14th of August 2008.Six months after I was told by the doctor that "you are like any normal person now". I suppose that meant I was cured.

Syukur Alhamdulillah.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

My Cats

I was never a cat lover until one day several years ago my mother took pity on a stray very-pregnant female cat. This cat was meowing continuously and looked sadly at my mother. My mother was also not very fond of cats but it was fated on that day, she decided to give some leftover noodles to this cat. It was very early in the morning and there was only the noodles. The poor cat was so hungry and ate all up. The cat then left but returned the next morning. My mother fed her again and this went on for a few days. Then, one day , the cat started searching for a place to give birth. My mother found a box and she unhesitantly climbed in . Soon after, she gave birth to 4 lovely kittens. By this time I was slowly but surely falling in love with the mother cat and her kittens.

Everyday after work, I would sit and watch them from day one. I gave them names of course. They remained in the box for exactly one month. Then they began to climb out of the box. They were very active. Everytime they climbed out, I put them in again fearing that they might wander off and get lost but I found out to my dismay they were too fast for me. They were beyond my control. Soon they were all over the place. My compound was quite big so they had a good time roaming. My neighbour at that time was my aunty, so their domain became bigger and wider.

When they were about four months old, I did something which I regretted to this day. They were becoming a bit too much for me and my elderly mother to handle so I decided to give them away. I decided that I would not separate them, so I had to look for someone who was willing to take all four. The mother cat, whom by now, I called Kitty, could continue to stay on with us I decided. It was not easy to find someone willing to take all of them but finally I found a childless couple who wanted all four. I was quite happy I found a good home for them. Their new 'parents' were a pilot and a dentist.

They day came when they had to leave for their new home. I remember crying my heart out. My mother and my aunty cried too. I put all four in a cage and we drove to their new home and upon arrival something happened which really broke my heart to pieces.

I was quite naive about cat behaviour at that time, so upon arrival, I opened the cage in front of their new house. Immediately, two of them ran out and disappeared. Their new parents were now left with only two kittens. I kept on calling the pilot to find out whether they found the missing kittens. After three days, he called to say that he found one dead kitten not far from where they were first released. That night, I cried and cried and regretted that I took such a drastic action to give them away. The other missing kitten was never found. From that day onwards, I vowed never to give away any cats of mine ,should I own any, to anybody.

The incident happened about thirteen years ago but it still saddens me to this day everytime I think of them. But my episodes with cats did not stop there, in fact, it had just begun. Be on the lookout for more stories on cats.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

My First Blog

My interest in blogging began when my husband started his own blog. Other than golf, my husband had no other passion until he started his blog. For someone who is only about 30% computer literate (compared to my 50%), now my dear husband is an avid blogger. Everyday after golf , he will be at his laptop. I am amazed at his ability to recollect past incidents ( some as long as 30 years ago) in vivid detail. Another thing which I discover about him is his ability to write.
As mentioned earlier, my husband knew very little about computer. When he started blogging, he would get my assistance. In fact, he was the one who influenced me to start my own blog. This is my first blog and I am rather excited. I hope to write more after this.