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.
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