Friday, April 30, 2010

Fuss And Furore Over Sex

Of late, there has been a lot of debate on whether sex education should be "introduced" in schools. I really don't understand what else that is left to be "introduced" when  the topic of  "human reproduction" has been adequately included in the science syllabus since the day I started my teaching career in the 70's!

"Human Reproduction" is taught as soon as  a child enters secondary school, from form 1 right up to form 5. The subject is gradually introduced, reaching its peak as early as form 3 or when a child turns 15. I had many, many years of experience teaching science and I can safely say that the topic that rides high in the students' popularity chart is the human reproduction. Unlike all the other topics, this particular one gets a rapt 100% attention!!! The question of them being ignorant on this topic is absurd. So, what is all this fuss and furore about getting them educated on this particular topic. Why, some of these kids know more than I do!!

May be it would be interesting to note that the topic covers everything from the onset of puberty right through adulthood, not missing out on anything pertaining to pregnancy and childbirth and even methods of family planning plus ways of preventing sexually-transmitted diseases. Now, how's that for starters!! Of course, there are diagrams depicting various views of the human genitals thrown in for a clearer and better understanding of the whole sexy package. In fact, everything that a child needs to know is bluntly and boldly made known to them, nothing is spared. If all these are not sex education, then, what is?

I am terribly confused why the issue on the absence  of sex education in schools is being blamed for the frequency in the number of reported cases of  unwanted newborn babies, dead or alive,  being thrown everywhere, in toilets, rubbish dump, drains, etc.,etc. like thrash. Apparently, some believe that the ignorance of these young, unmarried mothers on matters relating to  sex, is the very reason which consequently leads to these babies being treated so inhumanly. I strongly dispute this rash and biased opinion. I think if there is anything that needs to be introduced in schools, it's psychology, certainly not sex education which has been on the scene for almost 40 years and is still running!!!

Students who completed their secondary education are sufficiently equipped with the required knowledge to know the consequences of  indulging in illicit sex without precaution. There is no point in trying to camouflage the whole issue by blaming it on their ignorance on sex. I think the issue is more complex than that.

My initial aim was to write about my experiences teaching the 15 year-olds human reproduction but I got sidetracked. Perhaps in my next posting.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Of Millionaires and Billionaires

Eight years ago, Darulaman Heights was just like any other residential area comprising of an assortment of lecturers, teachers, several doctors, a few lawyers, bankers,  "conventional "businessmen, several politicians and of course, retirees like my husband and I. I think most people like it here because they get to enjoy a free golf  and club membership with Darulaman Golf And Country Club plus a bit of the country living which promises peace and tranquility.

Most of us are ordinary people living very ordinary lives until we have this invasion of highly ambitious entrepreneurs who have achieved some measure of success through their newly launched products, mostly herbal in nature. They roared in their gleaming new Brabus, Mercedes, BMW, Lexus and snapped up all the bungalows or vacant lots that were up for sale. Extensive renovations were soon under way to transform these modest bungalows into something more majestic befitting of those who have just acquired fame and fortune.

I suppose if one is a herbal freak with no fear for side effects, then having all these people around saves  the time and trouble of having to drive out to town to get their products. They are very courteous and cordial and would readily oblige you with your requests for their products, no extra charge for sending them straight to your doorstep!

However, as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. We did not get to enjoy this prompt and personalised service for long. Apparently the wealth that they had accumulated thus far wasn't sufficient to sustain their high style of living. The trappings of wealth which were boldly flaunted began to disappear one by one, very slowly and subtly at first but eventually gaining  such a momentum that everything was gone within a few months. It must have been very miserable and embarassing but I suppose, there was nothing they could do to stop the twist of fate.

However, a few are still going strong. One of them is the guy who claims to have found the secret formula to eliminating obesity once and for all, despite his very own protruding belly under the rather elaborate tuxedo ensemble. Business is obviously booming for he has added a brand new Mercedes 350 CLS to his fleet of cars and has just been conferred a Datukship. This one goes round telling that he aspires to be a billionaire in 5 years time. It's always good to be positive. (I think it took Donald Trump a bit longer than that) Good luck, Datuk.

Further down the road is yet another one who has made it big. This one has a Bentley, a Lumborghini, a Ferrari, two Porsche, a BMW 7 series, a Hummer, a mini cooper and 2 Harley Davidson in tow. Pretty impressive, I say, and all these in good old ulu Jitra, believe it or not!!!

Well, I must say it does me proud sharing the same neighbourhood with all these colourful people. It's not often that one gets to rub shoulders with multi-millionaires and a billionaire wannabe. Who knows, these ambitous people might just transform Darulaman Heights to Damansara Heights.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Magic Potions

I just saw this advert on TV and thought it would be interesting to write something about it. The product advertised is a locally produced slimming formula which is fast gaining popularity up here in the northern region of peninsular Malaysia.I don't know whether it has caught up in other parts of the country but going by the aggressive promotion, I think it wont be long before it becomes a household name.

It is common knowledge that these local products usually don't last very long in the market. They enjoy a sudden rapid rise to stardom only to suffer a humiliating downfall just as fast.  I think the reason for this very short reign lies in the attitude of us, Malaysians. We are easily swayed into trying out something new and will not hesitate to discard the old one in the hope that this new one would prove  more effective. Product loyalty obviously takes a back seat, inspite of its proven efficacy. I guess it's good in the sense that, we always aspire to achieve perfection and excellence in health, in beauty, whatever.

It is this very attitude that prompted many entrepreneur wannabes whose ultimate goal is to become millionaires, to venture into business. Products are hastily launched and promoted aggressively nationwide, with testimonials to convince (or is it connive) the ever trusting Malaysians. Soon, everybody is making a beeline to get this new product until such a time when another enterprising wannabe decides that he, too, wants a piece of the cake and hey presto! a new product is born. And the cycle goes round and round and round spinning us to greater heights of confusion.

I wonder whether these products have undergone the required R&D. Many claim that they conform to the rules and regulations laid down by the Ministry Of Health and then suddenly you see them making headlines. Apparently, these so-called effective formulae are  heavily laden with forbidden chemicals and steroids! Malaysians are nevertheless, shocked by this revelation but alas, only for a short while before they continue with their uncontrollable addiction.

I was once addicted to all these products because the results were incredibly instantaneous and almost magical. Not once did it ever occur to me that such magic potions are extremely dangerous. I have fallen prey, not once, not twice but many times. I dread to imagine the level of toxicity in my body. I always learn things the hard way but I think it's good because learning the hard way cuts a deeper wound, hence preventing me from getting hooked on it ever again. InsyaAllah.

Whom do we blame in this issue, the producers or the consumers? Or both? In fact, I am surrounded by all these "producers" in my taman here in Jitra. I shall write about their rise to fame and fortune and then their sad downfall in my next posting, perhaps, no names mentioned, of course!. I don't want to be sued!!!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Wira Who?

I am a bit cheesed off by the comments made by Wira in Dato' Arshad's blog, under the entry "An Open Letter To The Chief Of Defence Forces And To All Three Service Chiefs" dated 14 April  2010. I think I need to clarify things a bit for Wira since he has made it clear that he is NOT a follower of my husband's (Mej. Nor Ibrahim Bin Sulaiman (B) blog, xnuripilot. Based on this declaration, Wira is in no position to come out with such callous remarks regarding the issue on the gallantry medals. I think I need to straighten things out a bit to ease the congestion and lessen the confusion in Wira's somewhat troubled mind.

To date, Malaysia has 5 gallantary awards which have been gazetted by the government, namely

1) Seri Pahlawan Gagah Perkasa (SP)
2) Pingat Gagah Berani (PGB)
3) Pingat Tentera Udara (PTU)      
4) Jasa Perkasa Persekutuan (JPP)
5) Kepujian Perutusan Keberanian (KPK)

The famous Kanang was awarded both the SP and PGB in the 70'S. A few of my husband's colleagues got their PGBs in the 70's as well. It is important to note that these medals were not accompanied by monetary incentives then. It was only in 2001 that the government decided to grant the recipients of SP and PGB a  monthly allowance of  RM400 and RM300 respectively. However, the amount was later increased to RM2000 and RM1,500 monthly in 2009. There was quite a buzz in the local media regarding this substantial increase that marked the beginning of my husband's  crusade to get the authorities to provide similar incentives to the other 3 remaining gallantry awards i.e. PTU, JPP and KPK.

Inevitably, a precedence is set when the government decides to acknowledge the SP and PGB recipients with monetary incentives. My husbabnd is of the opinion that the other 3 medallists should also be  accorded the same respect and dignity. Wira's shallow concept  on the role of soldiers (i.e. fighting and dying blindly for the country and not seeking what is rightfully theirs for the taking) is sadly outdated and irrelevant. It was the order of the day then, to swallow everything in silence regardless of how dissatisfied and disgruntled a person was over a certain issue and to accept everything as fate. Hang Tuah's blind loyalty is no longer revered today.

Things are obviously different now. There are numerous platforms which allow us to voice our opinions, to speak out our minds and to pour out our grievances. It would be foolish not to grab this golden opportunity dangling right under our noses to fight for a good cause. In this particular case, the "good cause" stands to benefit not just Mej. Nor Ibrahim Bin Sulaiman (B) but hundreds of others in the military as well as the police force.(I don't know the actual statistics, but I was told the total number does not exceed one thousand) These were some of the people who once fought for the country against the communists terrorists and were awarded gallantry awards for their bravery but sadly, they missed out on the monetary incentives enjoyed by their SP and PGB counterparts. There was not the slightest hint of discontent or disillusionment until 2009 following the announcement on the increment of the monthly allowance to the SP and PGB medallists. This inevitably triggered a normal thinking person into questioning "Why? Why only SP and PGB. Why not all the other three as well?" In the course of this pursuit, a comparison was made between the gallantry award medallists and the gold, silver and bronze medallists in athletics as a means of providing an analogy. If all the three athletics medallists are given the  incentives, then going by the analogy, it would seem justified that all the five gallantry award medallists be treated similarly.

I hope my explanation would assist in lifting the shroud that's been clouding both Wira's thoughts and vision.

"Wira" means "hero" when translated. The Cambridge definition of a "hero" is "a person who is admired for having done something very brave or having achieved something very great." The soldiers who were on the frontline fighting for the country are definitely heroes. The athletes who brought fame to the country are also heroes. If it is not asking too much, Wira, which category do you fall into? The battle field or the sports arena? It strikes me as rather weird and odd that a person who goes by the nickname of "Wira" should decide to hide his true identity. Heroes are supposed to be brave enough to reveal their true self. Well, may be with a few exceptions!!!. Come on Wira, take off that mask of yours. Prove us that you are a REAL hero, come out of that hiding place. Give us a chance to assess you the way you  assess others.

P.S. Wira, may be it would be wise for you to just eat the apples and oranges mentioned in your comments instead of making careless comparisons of them. Who knows, they might just help you think straight once and for all.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Fear For The Unknown

It's been two years now since I left the teaching profession but it feels like just yesterday that I drove out the school gates. I find it hard to believe that time flies equally fast  now as it was when I was still working. Time was the very essence of my entire working life. We worked round the clock to beat the numerous dead lines and before we even realised it, PMR was already round the corner. We had barely enough time to heave a sigh of relief when SPM next made its appearance. Not to mention the extra classes, the monthly tests, the piles of paper work, the endless flurry of activities both curricular and extra-curricular which were physically and mentally taxing to both teachers and pupils alike. But, despite all the groans and grumbles,there was a lot of fun and laughter, too.

Contrary to the popular belief that retirement is often waited upon with a sense of relief and joy, I cringed at the very thought of it. I felt that I was not ready to embrace  a life free from the hassles that were part and parcel of a working life  of which I had grown to love despite all its shortcomings. I was terrified of facing this new phase in my life without the familiar faces and surroundings I grew to love and adore. I was so preoccupied with trying to figure out how best to adjust my life with the onset of retirement that  made me even more confused and depressed. But life has a way of easing things out for a person and in my case, it came in the form of Hepatitis C. In retrospect, I think this new threat was a blessing in disguise.

Just months before I was due to retire, I was told that I had Hepatitis C. Something else which was more serious had suddenly emerged without any prior notice. I was  terribly devastated by this piece of news that retirement was no longer of any significance. Ironically, this twist of events, had me waiting for retirement to come sooner to begin my treatment. When the doctor decided to start the treatment exactly one month earlier than my retirement date, I thought I was able to resume work after a few days. Unfortunately, I was so heavily drugged that work was entirely out of question. I was given one whole month of medical leave prior to my retirement. May be it would be of interest to just point out that I somehow knew instinctively that I had to clear up everything, that I had to hand over everything, informally though, before I went to see my doctor the morning I was told to start the medication. So, my conscience was clear as far as work was concerned.

So it was that I started my retirement on a rather sad note. There was no farewell that I knew was planned for me. There were no hugs and kisses, no crocodile tears, no solemn goodbyes, no NOTHING. But, friends and students visited me bringing lots of gifts with them and for that, I will eternally be grateful.

Sometimes fear of the unknown can be even more fatal than the unknown itself. I was driven into state of frenzy everytime I thought of how I was to cope with so much of free time on my hands. I had this notion that the days would drag on slowly and that I would be bored to death. All these negative thoughts were accompanied by several others on the sidelines such as insomnia, panic attacks, vertigo to name a few. Not to mention an erratic reading of the blood pressure.

Now, all those uncertainties are behind me. My life is more organized now. I learn how to live one day at a time. Surprisingly, my days are faster now than ever before. Syukur Alhamdulillah.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


I woke up this morning at about 5 and on opening the windows, the sweet scent of jasmine floated into the bedroom. It has a therapeutic effect on me. After breathing in deeply a few times, I felt adequately charged to start off my day. My cat, Tuah, did not share the bed with us last night, so I slept right through. Normally, Tuah would creep in stealthily and make himself comfortable in the middle of our king-sized bed. He has an uncanny way of claiming territory leaving us with barely enough space on either side to stretch out our weary bodies, let alone sleep comfortably.

I have not been feeling very well since we started getting the rain about a week ago. Nothing serious, just a mild case of running nose. Nevertheless, I am quite worried that it might develop into something more drastic - H1N1 in particular.

I read in the papers last Sunday that Cambodia had started a nationwide vaccination programme on ALL children between the ages of 6 months and 2 years, pregnant women and those with chronic lung diseases. It came as no surprise to me when developed countries like Australia, New Zealand  and the U.S. announced that all their citizens would be vaccinated regardless of whether they were vulnerable or not. But for a country like Cambodia to undertake such a noble act is something else, given its under developed status (or is it developing?) Even if it were a developing nation, then that makes it even with Malaysia. But, is Malaysia as responsible and sensitive towards her citizens as far as H1N1 is concerned?

Of course, we are constantly reminded to seek immediate help if we have all the symptoms and that vaccination will be given to all who are considered "vulnerable". The problem is, how do we know whether we are in the high risk group and even if we are able to identify, how far advanced are we into a certain illness before we are deemed eligible for the vaccination. What is the instrument of   measurement? Obesity, diabetes and asthma are some of those in the high risk category but I'm sure not all would be entertained if they were to request for the vaccination. If, however, priority is given to them after they tested positive, then, it is no longer preventive in nature. I thought prevention is always better than cure.

I think Malaysia is very vague in addressing this issue. I think  Malaysia should follow in the footsteps of her neighbour, Cambodia, in curbing the disease from spreading. I think Malaysia should practise what she preaches in line with her 1Malaysia slogan of "Rakyat Didahulukan, Pencapaian Diutamakan".

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The New Forty

It was my birthday yesterday. I  woke up thanking God for having given me a good life and prayed that I will continue to enjoy many more healthy and happy years ahead of me. It was just another day for me. Nothing special. Well, not quite....... I had a few friends calling and wishing me good health and good luck. A very good friend brought a huge present on the eve of my birthday. My husband took both my mum and I out for lunch at the Darulaman Golf Club. That's about it. No exotic holidays or a romantic candle-light dinner in a fancy restaurant, no lavish and expensive gifts. Do I sound like I'm missing out on all these extravagance? Honestly, no.

I had my share of surprises and celebrations which were very meaningful and unforgettable but they are a thing of the past. I now look forward to the simple pleasures that life has to offer. It gives me great joy  to wake up to the sound of birds chirping merrily in the trees, to smell the fresh and sweet scent of jasmine drifting in the air, to see the flowers blooming bright and beautiful in the morning sun. These may seem very ordinary to some people but they never fail to lift my spirits and keep me happy for the rest of the day.

I thought my share of surprises were over until I received an e-card in my mail this morning.  My husband sent a beautiful pink e-card. I must applaud him on his success in designing it without my "expert assistance". When I enquired about the late arrival, he said we should subscribe to broadband to speed up the delivery!!!!!! I really can't tell whether he was serious or just pulling my leg. Whatever it was, it brought a smile to my face.

I read somewhere that "life begins at 40" is obsolete. Apparently, the new 40 is 60! Hey, I have a couple of years to go before I begin my life! SPLENDID.

Picture taken on my birthday with my "hair" down

Picture with "hair" tied into a pony tail

Thursday, April 1, 2010

False Alarm

Well, I'm back after an absence of almost a week. I have a very good reason for keeping quiet these last few days. On the 28th of March, I was at the Sultanah Bahiyah Hospital Alor Setar for my routine post treatment follow-up on Hepatitis C. This time, in addition to the blood test, I was ordered to do a liver scan. I didn't sleep very well the night before the appointment fearing a relapse of the dreaded disease.

We (my husband and I) arrived at the hospital at about 8.10 a.m. and headed straight for the Ultra Sound department . I did not have to wait long before I was called in. I was relieved when told that my liver looked okay but they discovered something else..... there were stones in my gall bladder. At that very moment, I was devoid of any feelings. The whole world froze on me. There was no fear, no shock, nothing. When the truth finally sank in, I meekly asked whether it was normal to have stones in the gall bladder. I was told to discuss it with my doctor, putting an end to my attempt to get some sort of an assurance that it was not a serious problem. Well, my appointment was due in two days time, on the 30th. This meant that I had to endure 2 long days and nights before I could finally get an answer.

When I told my husband of the new discovery, he let out a long sigh before laughing out loud. "Hey, this is no laughing matter. What is so funny?" I shouted back in anger, tears brimming my eyes. Sensing that I was really upset and distressed, he started to console me, quoting friends and relatives with stones! I lashed back at him "They all have stones in their kidneys, I have them in the gall bladder!" My husband was momentarily quiet. He is one confused man when it comes to the human anatomy. I think he was trying to figure out the difference between a kidney and a gall bladder but he refrained from probing further

We then made our way to a different part of the hospital to have my blood taken for the blood test. By 10 a.m. everything was done and during the drive back home, I cautioned my husband not to breathe a word about the stones to my mum. There was no point in making her worry......not yet, I reasoned out to my husband.

Surprisingly, I was able to handle the "bad" news remarkably well. I did not rush to the internet to devour whatever knowledge I could find. The scenario was completely different when I was first informed that I tested positive for Hepatitis C in December 2007. Much as I was scared to know about Hep C, I kept on digging more and more and I ended up worse off emotionally than I started out! I was not about to repeat the same mistake this time around.

My cousins, Fushia and Ikke and my aunty Rozainy called to get the latest updates on my tests but I kept mum on the scanning, telling them that the results would be made known only after I saw the specialist. I was extremely careful not to leak out anything regarding the stones for fear that the message would be passed on to my mum. I remember Ikke insisted on knowing the results of the scan, so I had to lie. I told her everything was okay.

I prayed extra hard the morning of the appointment. Again, my husband and I set out for the hospital. While waiting for my turn to see the doctor, I met a fellow Hep C patient, who used to be  my husband's golf  buddy. I wasted no time in telling him about the stones in my gall bladder. What a relief when he told me that he also has some in his gall bladder. He told me not to worry adding that once you crossed 67 years, you should not complain about  any minor health defects. I nodded my head in approval but the problem is I have another 10 full years to reach where he is now!!! Come on, have some mercy on me!!

My turn to see the doctor finally came. This specialist, a gastro enterologist, is an extremely nice person. I referred to him as "the good doctor" in my earlier write-up on my experience of Hep C. After having exchanged the usual doctor-patient greetings, I sat down nervously waiting for what was in store for me. He was busy studying the results on the computer. When he finally spoke, I could not believe what I heard. His exact words were " These stones, there were already there before. You don't have to worry." It suddenly dawned on me that he was already aware of their existence before. My husband wasted no time in telling him that I was very worried about them. He explained that it is common practice to leave the stones as they are unless they cause discomfort or start to migrate out of their habitat. One problem solved. Syukur Alhamdulillah.

My blood test results were good. My ALT (liver enzyme) reading was normal. This reading is of great importance to all Hep C patients, before, during and after the treatment. It acts as a signal when monitoring the state of your liver. If the reading exceeds the allowable range, then there is cause for concern. My cholesterol level was a bit over the upper limit but he told me it was quite okay. What a relief! My prayers were answered. Syukur Alhamdulillah.

The good doctor told me he would see me again in 6 months' time. I have about 6 months to improve on my cholesterol level but the rest, like the ALT, are beyond my control.  I can only hope and pray that everything would be fine come 6 months from now and for always. InsyaAllah.