Sunday, October 31, 2010

Trip to Niah Caves

My colleague, M*** organised a trip to bring a group of Form 3 students to Niah Caves. Why? Well, it's just because that they had not been there ever before. 31 students signed up for the trip; but because he was the only one teacher-in-charge, M*** started asking around for other teachers to go along. He needed help and support to watch over the students during the trip. I volunteered because I wanted to wanted to trek, P*** went because she had never been before, and I** wanted to bring some friends along. So in the end, there were 4 teachers to 31 students. Joining us on that day was a reporter for See Hua Daily, A****.

Well, it's not my first trip to Niah. I'd stayed 2 nights there for a camp years before. Plus, I'd trekked into the Caves once before this. I remembered enjoying myself tremendously previously, and hence, I did not hesitate to volunteer this time around.

We reached the National Park at around 9.00 a.m., registered ourselves, and bought tickets. Each student paid RM5.00, and us teachers paid RM10.00 per person.

At the park grounds

Besides that, we had to pay for a short boat ride across Sungai Subis. It was RM1.00 per person per trip. We thought it was a rip-off. The ride was took less than a minute! Lol.

Had to get over to the other side to start the trek

Crossing Sungai Subis

On the other side of the river is the Niah Archaelogical Museum. It displays artefacts that pertains to the pre-historic site that is Niah.

After that, the trail begins. The distance to the caves is clearly depicted. We went in about 9 a.m. and came out about 2 p.m. Hence, we were actually quite slow ;p.

Well, the distance looked manageable

Members of our group leading the way ...

Well, it was a hot day, but the thick foliage and the canopy of trees provided adequate shade. I was sure glad as I hated being in the sun.

The first cave that the trail took us to was the Traders' Cave, where birds' nests were traded or sold in the olden days.

Inside Traders' Cave

200 metres later, we reached the Great Cave. Indeed by then, everyone was tired. Lol. We were really unfit!! Some did not want to proceed further to the end of the trail, where the Painted Cave was. However, us teachers made everyone walk - albeit slowly.

The infamous structure at the mouth of the Great Cave

Well, the trail inside caves were pitch dark, and seemed eerie to me. There were so many steps, and I climbed till my legs ached. There were times when I thought my legs would buckle and I would roll into the abyss! Lol. It was also slippery, and many of us almost slipped. Luckily I remembered to bring my torch light. Otherwise, it would not be easy navigating in the darkness.

Anyway, we managed to reach the Painted Cave. After resting for a while, we made our way back.

It's the birds' nest harvesting season, and we witnessed a skilled collector strung mid-air, poking his long bamboo pole at the ceiling of the cave in a bid to scrap the nest off. On the ground, a few men stood by to collect the nests that dropped.

It was a dangerous job indeed, for the man was only strapped to a rope. We were sure that he would lose his life if he fell! M*** said there were rituals to perform before they would climb up. I wouldn't know, but I suppose it was true. I would love to stay longer to watch him do his job, but we had to make our way back to the Park HQ already.

Everyone was glad when we reached the boat jetty as were all really tired. It was sure a fulfilling day though!

Monday, October 25, 2010

He Made My Day

Last Saturday, I**** won a hamper at the school cultural nite dinner. When he passed me on his way out of hall, I pointed to a mango pudding inside the hamper and told him jokingly that I wanted one.

And indeed, this afternoon, he presented me with a mango pudding.

"Teacher," he said. "This is from our class," he said, indicating the pudding in his hand.

Well, it was such a simple gesture but I was really very touched, simply because he remembered that I wanted the pudding.

So far in my experience, most students attack the goodies in hampers like a pack of hungry wolves and don't give two hoots about anyone at all.

The fact that I**** took the trouble to save me a cup of pudding really touched me.

Thanks kiddo. You made my day.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Not So Special At All ...

Today's breakfast left me feeling unsatisfied. Not because the food was not good. But for the price that I paid, I would have expected more stuff in the soup. Instead, there was a piece of bone. Rib, I think, but the meat was tough. Then there were a few slices of beef, a few slices of tripe, a piece of tendon, and handful of beansprouts. All served in a hot pot or rather a mini wok, with a burner underneath to keep the soup hot. The noodles were served separately.

Beef soup in a mini wok

Dry-tossed beef noodles

For RM10.00, the ingredients in the beef soup were rather meagre, don't you think so? Well, in the menu, that was called "Special Beef Noodles". Honestly, I did not find it special at all ;(

Well, if you hadn't already guessed, I was at Nancy's Beef Noodles, opposite Imperial Mall.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

It Happens More Often Than It Should...

It's really testing my patience.

Only 37 Kbps?? Shucks!! The darn broadband is acting up again. It's horrendous! You may want to think twice or thrice when getting broadband!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

I Have Almost Forgotten . . .

Students come and go every year. There are so many names and so many faces that pass through my hands, and through time, they fade into the deep recesses of my memory.

This afternoon, while visiting The Reading Bus, I had the opportunity to meet a former student of mine, TK, whom I taught a few years back when he was in Form 6. After catching up for a while, I found out that he's now a temporary teacher at a neighbouring school in Miri.

In the midst of a very chaotic room with lots of children and adults milling about, he came back to tell me that he remembered being in my choir. That was in 2006, when the choir team managed to secure a third place in the SUPP inter-school patriotic songs competition. The victory came as a surprise, but we were of course so ecstatic.

TK went on to tell me that being in the choir and winning the competition was really memorable for him. "Sangat best, cikgu!" TK said to me.

I was really touched and inspired, listening to him, because for all the things that he would not remember about school, he would remember and cherish his experiences he had in my choir because it had impacted him in some way.

I had nearly forgotten about the choir episode. It had after all been four years. However, as I reflect, I am reminded that I can do all things, as long as I put my mind to it. That, and of course a lot of hard work. I am also reminded that teaching is all about making a difference in somebody's life, whether in or out of the classroom - like it had impacted TK.

Of course, at the time, all these notions took the back seat as I was most concerned about getting my team to sing and to sing right.

Come to think of it, I remember quite clearly how the choir came about. Well, I was approached early one morning by my new principal then, about sending a team of kids for choir competition. I was rather reluctant at that time, because there was only a month and a half before the competition. I had no songs to sing, and I had no singers.

Nevertheless, I started recruiting members. I had Form 1s right up to the most senior Form 6s in the team. A leader among them was quickly identified, and she naturally became the conductor. H****** was a really great leader as she could keep the team unified. She arranged practice times, and she made the choir sing again and again to perfect the tune.

We decided to sing Warisan and Sejahtera Malaysia. I had to arrange the songs myself since there lacked music scores. And practice was carried out almost every afternoon. The kids practised really diligently.

The principal popped by one afternoon, and was pleasantly surprised that the kids could actually sing like a real choir. He started dropping by more often, listening to the kids singing. I knew he enjoyed listening to them.

To cut the long story short, the kids did well at the competition night, and our hard work paid off when we got 3rd, behind SMKB and RRSS.

For me, the victory that year was really sweet.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Food & Tea on a Rainy Evening

I was at Food & Tea the other night, and it was raining so heavily that I desired something hot. And hence, it was Claypot Ginger Sliced Beef Porridge that I ordered. Honestly, it was the first time I had beef in my porridge.

See the crackers topping the porridge? I hated that. I failed to inform the waitress that I did not want crackers. Why? Because obviously the crackers were not not depicted in the menu. I went back to carefully examine the menu, and in the pictures, the crackers were sprinkled sparsely, but the porridge that came had a handful of of deep-fried salted popiah or wanton skin (not sure) over it. So what is there left to do but to move those to the side of the pot.

Taste wise, the porridge did not disappoint. The porridge itself was savoury, the beef slices tender and the ginger added heat. It's not bad at all on a cold rainy night.

The girls also decided to try Sweet and Sour Crabmeat with Mantou. There were five deep-fried miniature mantous served. They were quite standard. The dip was indeed sweet and sour, but the girls thought it tasted more like a mixture of ketchup and chilli sauce more than anything else. Hence, the girls gave this item a thumbs down.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Pampering My Legs

My legs have been aching since last week, and I think I know why.

Last week was PMR exam, and it happened that I was on duty at school. On an important week like that, it was my responsibility to ensure that school was orderly, and noise was kept to a bare minimum.

It meant that I had to make my rounds more often than usual. It also meant that I had to stand for 40 minutes during recess to keep watch. In the classrooms, it was no better. It was Trial examination for the Forms 5 and 6, and school policy dictates that we have to invigilate actively. That meant no sitting down.

Hence, my legs got sore. This week was equally hectic, with me trying to get my work done. So, there was a lot of rushing here and there, up and down the stairs. For several nights now, I find myself rubbing my legs with Deep Heating Mentholatum to relieve the muscular pains in my leg.

Tonight, W**** and I went to do reflexology at Yi Kang Reflexology Centre, just opposite Dewan Suarah here in Miri. Business was really good there on a Friday night, and there were lots of people calling to make bookings.

Tonight, an elderly lady massaged my aching toes, feet, calf and knees. It was painful, but my muscles were loosened, and I felt much better after the reflex. 40 minutes seemed just like a while, and it cost RM29.40.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Teaching? Or ...

It has been a crazy few days, and there are endless tasks that I had to look into daily. By the end of each day, my legs ache and I am totally drained.

Today, for instance, I worked at my To Do list conscientiously, trying to cross out more, if not all the items in the list. And then I have come to realise that none of those things in my list were related to teaching and learning - my CORE business.

Now, let's see. These were what I did :
  1. Organise presentation of souvenirs and certificates for students during the morning roll call
  2. Collect testimonial forms for students and KIV
  3. Update namelist of recipients for upcoming Speech Day
  4. Photocopy and distribute list to relevant personnel
  5. Print vouchers for upcoming Speech Day
  6. Update namelist of participants for SDI (Sarawak Development Institute) dialogue
  7. Draft cover letter and attach namelist to be sent to SDI
  8. Nominate recipient for Curtin Excellence Award
  9. Draft letter to be sent to Curtin
  10. Search for index numbers for upcoming MUET Speaking examination
  11. Group the students according to index number
  12. Deliver to the list to the invigilator
  13. Call neighbouring school to borrow cultural costumes (but with no success)
  14. Edit emcee script for upcoming cultural night
  15. Print and photocopy script
  16. Look for students and provide suggestions to amend programme for cultural night
  17. Draft letter to ask for funding from the Education Department
  18. Draft action plan to attach with letter so that I will get my funding
  19. Clear my desk!!!
  20. Attend support staff meeting
  21. Supervise rehearsal for cultural night
  22. Draft committee for convocation
  23. Calculate funding for convocation
  24. Draft academic committee for 2011
Phew!! Mundane. But does it look like I'm an event organiser, an administrator, a clerk or a teacher?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Dinner @ Shanghai Seafood Restaurant

A few nights ago, the girls went out for dinner at Shanghai Seafood Restaurant. Not really knowing what to order, the girls settled for these :

Shanghai Tofu

A four-vegetable platter

Preserved Radish Omelette

Sweet and Sour Garoupa

Seafood Thick Soup

Well, let's see. The tofu was nice. The tofu seemed to be mashed and then mixed with some sort of finely chopped vegetables, then deep-fried till it's crisp and golden brown on the outside and soft in the inside. It was served with sweet, sour and spicy dip. The sauce complimented the tofu nicely.

Sweet, sour, and spicy dip for tofu

The vegetables platter came with four types of vegetables. First, the oyster mushrooms were cut into bite-sized pieces and then deep-fried. The batter coating the mushroom was rather light too, which was nice. Then, there's the cangkuk manis stir fried with egg. Third is the deep-fried kailan. I couldn't really make out the taste of this particular veg - it was dry, light, slightly smoky, bland. Hmn, it didn't really stand out. Finally, the vegetable that we all loved was the kerabu midin. The crunchy midin was seasoned with a sweet and tangy sauce, shallots and chillies. Yum.

The radish omelette was well, radish omelette. ;)

The fish was fresh, and deep-fried to a crispy perfection. But I don't really like the gravy, as I thought it was a tad too sweet. Plus, the ketchup tasted artificial to me. I'd also love to have more diced cucumbers, tomatoes, onions and pineapples in my sweet and sour gravy.

And finally, the soup was not great either. There weren't much ingredients in it, and it was a bit too starchy for my liking. I've had better seafood thick soups elsewhere in coffee shops around Miri.

Well, the meal cost us RM119. Cheap? Expensive? Reasonable? I really do not know. But the girls enjoyed yakking over the meal. ;)

Till our next makan, ciao!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Paper Boats In Class

I had fun in class today, as the students and I discussed a festival. I had only 40 minutes, but the lesson was rather fulfilling.

My 14-year-old kids and I looked into the Thai festival of Loy Krathong, where the highlight of the event is to float palm-sized rafts on waterways. The tiny rafts carry away misfortunes, and bring one's wishes to the Goddess of Water.

Traditionally, the tiny rafts are made of banana tree trunk, but nowadays, bread is often use as it is more environmentally friendly.

After the discussion, I got the students to write their wishes in a piece of A4 coloured paper. "Blue, teacher!" a boy piped. "Give me yellow!" another boy said. Most of the girls wanted pink. Lol. I love an excited class.

Writing his wishes earnestly ...

We then folded the paper into paper boats.

Showing the students how to fold a paper boat ...

The boys were all on task ....

Working together to complete the task ...

Ta-da!! Everyone's wish boats ...

It's too bad that they couldn't float their boats as there's no waterways at school. I couldn't possibly ask them to clog the drain. Lol. Hence, they decided that they wanted to decorate their classroom with those paper boats.

Anyway, I love it when everyone is engaged in class. It makes teaching seem worthwhile. Because the kids are researching into a Thai festival, their next project is to cook Thai food. I certainly look forward to that!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Darn Broadband

My broadband speed sucks, so I'm not actually in the mood to blog now. My average speed is only 35 Kbps. That's appalling! It's not even 10% of the maximum achievable data connection speed of 384 Kbps. And it's not just today that it's happened. It's been like this forever. In a month, there are only a few days that I can watch videos on YouTube smoothly. Other times, it lags and there are plenty of things I can't do.

Since I get less than 10% of the speed I'm promised, I should be paying only 10% or less of the subscription fee. That means, instead of RM68.00 per month, I should only pay less than RM6.80. Lol. If you could calculate it like that.

It certainly hits a sore point, when I see the particular service provider aggressively marketing its broadband, especially when I strolled along the malls during the weekend. Bintang Plaza Megamall. E-mart. Imperial Mall. They're selling everywhere! It's all right except that they should guarantee reasonable speed consistently.

Urgh. The more I write, the angrier I get. It's darn frustrating, and I have to seriously think about switching providers.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Friday, October 8, 2010

Dinner @ Airy Cafe

It was already 8.30 p.m., and we went to Airy Cafe at Boulevard Commercial Centre for dinner. That night, I got to try the Longevity Noodles with Cangkuk Manis.

Well, it was not bad, actually. The noodles were quite nice and , but the cangkuk manis was a bit dry and hard.

The second item I got to try was the Sizzling Hot Plate Noodles.

It was quite nice, with lots of vegetables, button mushrooms, black fungus, pork slices, an egg and thick gravy.

Well, it was my first time at Airy Cafe, and I found the food to be quite yum. Best of all, the cafe is air-conditioned, so one could have hawker food in cool comfort. I will definitely go back there for my meals ;).

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

iPhone 4

When it launched in Malaysia, I was in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. I watched on my hotel room TV, the long queue of people lining up to be the very first iPhone 4 owners in Malaysia. Well, I thought. I was in no hurry to get it. After all, I had been waiting for a year since iPhone 3GS was out of stock when I wanted to get one last November.

On the following week, the urge to own a smartphone got the better of me, and I drove to Jalan Perry near the Post Office here in Miri, where I thought Digi Centre was. To my horror, it was not there anymore and I had no idea where in Miri it had moved to.

That night, I searched the Digi website and found out that Digi Centre had relocated to Centrepoint, near Standard Chartered. Lol. Since when had they moved? And so I headed there the next day.

The lady who served me was quite amiable. She informed me kindly that the phone was out of stock, and that they were waiting for another shipping, and I could have my iPhone when stocks arrived. She was not sure, however, when they would arrive, but she said they would probably get them later in the week. I decided to make a booking, and she took down my name and contact number.

The weekend came and went and I did not have my phone yet. So I dropped by Digi Centre again on Monday, just to make another round of enquiry. It paid to have former students working there, and they told me that the stocks had arrived that morning itself, and the Centre would be selling the phones on the following day, that is Tuesday. But since I had made a booking, I could get the phone there and then! Yayy!!

There was no hassle at all. I filled in a couple of forms to change my mobile plan and paid for the phone, and that was it! I was ready to go high tech ;p!

It's been 2 days now, and well, I must say that iPhone is fun. There are plenty that people can do with it. I've downloaded some apps to play around with, and the great thing is that I'm learning lots of new things every day. Today, for example, I learned how to create custom ringtones via iTunes. It's fun!

There are lots more to learn and tinker with on the iPhone, and I just can't wait to explore them all! For now, ciao!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Power Party

I was invited by my friends to attend the Shell Centenary Gala at Kelab Rekreasi Petroliam @ Lutong on Saturday night, with the theme "100 Years of Powering Progress Together". It was a grand event held at the outdoors. There were canopies being set up though, and decorated in Shell's trademark yellow and red.

The large field was illuminated with huge lanterns bearing the Shell logo. I found it to be quite quirky.

The night was hot and humid, and we sat al fresco. We had a good view of the stage too, so we could enjoy the big names lined up for the live performances. As soon as we sat down, food and drinks were served. There were bottles of mineral water with its distinctive labels. Then there were free flow of can drinks and iced cold beer.

The food was not that great but it's totally understandable, because they needed to cater to so many tables. The live performances were great, all of which I enjoyed lots. But of course, I must say that I enjoyed the fireworks the most.

As I sat watching under the dark sky, it seemed like it was drizzling colourful sparkles. How magical!!

Anyway, Happy 100th, Shell!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sarawak Laksa @ Yakin Food Court

Occasionally, I have my breakfast at Yakin Food Court. A perennial problem for me is that I never know what to eat here. ;) True, there are many stalls, but none of them like quite stand out.

This morning, I strolled past each stall, trying to decide what to eat, when I caught a whiff of that distinct aroma of laksa. Dare I try the laksa here? Would I be disappointed? Well, I decided to go for it.

I marched to the stall and ordered a Laksa Special.

Sarawak Laksa Special

Hmn. I do not know whether my standards for a good bowl of laksa has dropped, or that the laksa here is in fact, alright. Lol.

Anyway, the gravy was sufficiently lemak, and they had all the ingredients right - prawn, shredded omelette, chicken strips and blanched bean sprouts . It even came with home made fish balls. That's an extra!

Squeeze lots of lime into it, and it was downright edible. The regular Laksa is RM4.50 while Laksa Special is RM6.00.


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