Friday, June 30, 2006

Chocolate Cake - Testing!

My son's birthday is coming soon and we're planning a party for him on one of the weekends. I found this particular recipe in my favourite website and thought I'd try it for the party - I'm thinking of trying it first this weekend though, just to be safe.

The ingredients says '1 package instant chocolate pudding mix' - I haven't a clue what that is. Is there such a thing here in the UK? This is an American recipe so I hope someone who's familiar with it and knows the corresponding UK product/alternative for it will tell me what it is so that I can try this recipe without spoiling it. Anyone? Anyone? No one?

Right. I've made up my mind that if I do not find anything that's called 'instant chocolate pudding mix' at the supermarket, I'm going to assume that that thing is similar to something I found at Tesco's called 'Chocolate Flavour delight - just add milk and whisk' - I already have that at home. I'm actually convinced it's the same thing but I can't be 100% sure, of course. What do you think?

You don't know either?

No matter. I will be brave and try this recipe using that Tesco product this weekend.

Wish me luck, people.

Chocolate Lovers' Favorite Cake

Original recipe yield: 1 - 10 inch Bundt cake.
Prep Time: 30 Minutes
Cook Time: 1 Hour
Ready In: 2 Hours


1 (510g) package devil's food cake mix
1 (110g) package instant chocolate pudding mix
2 cups sour cream
1 cup melted butter
5 eggs
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups semisweet mini chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 10 inch Bundt pan.

In a large bowl, stir together cake mix and pudding mix. Make a well in the center and pour in sour cream, melted butter, eggs and almond extract. Beat on low speed until blended. Scrape bowl, and beat 4 minutes on medium speed. Blend in chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake in preheated oven for 50 to 55 minutes. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A Dragon In The Toilet

My son saw a dragon in his school toilet. It was a green one, he said and he was genuinely distressed about it and tried to tell me a few times yesterday and today that the school was ‘closed’ so he didn’t have to go to school. Being the 'trusting' and 'wonderful' mother that I am, I nearly believed him and wanted to call the school to make sure – but I saw the wary look he gave me when I announced my intention to not take him to school after all and immediately saw through his fib.

I was quite disturbed by his behaviour. It’s been ages since he last ‘refused’ to go to school - he usually literally jumps up from bed in the mornings to go to school and one of the most potent weapons in my arsenal where he is concerned is to threaten him that I will not send him to school tomorrow (that is, besides the equally potent threat of reporting any naughty behaviour to his class teacher - how children look up to their teachers!).

And so I went with him to his school, and on the way made him repeat after me three times (with hopes that he will remember) the supplication (doa) muslims normally recite before entering the toilet. And when we reached his class, I made him go to the toilets with me, recited the doa with him just before stepping inside and asked him to show me where he saw the dragon – and he showed me.

Of course, it had to be the furthest toilet in the row of toilets. I looked inside and found myself dreading (only a little) to see something spooky in there but of course, no dragons would dare show their ugly faces when mommies and daddies and teachers were around. I then calmly told him to not bother going to the furthest one and just quickly do his thing in the nearest toilet when he needs to.

And that seemed to calm him. I settled him down to do some painting – put on his apron and helped him to mix the paints - before I take my leave and reassure him that I will come back for him at 3.20pm, after story time. But then he started to plead, in his normal way, with his head bent a little to the side, pulling at my heart strings, “don’t go mama, stay here with me,” and again I looked at him, a little bit more concerned.

Yes, my husband will tell you that I get very easily concerned and worried about anything and everything but that’s just me, what can I say! And so being me, I decided to inform his teacher, Miss Edwards, a tall and pretty black woman with a friendly smile, about the dragon. She showed concern, as all teachers should, when a student is distressed (he was nearly crying at the time – his mouth twitched downwards and the waterworks were ready to flow). I watched as she reassured him that she would be in class with Qamar, her teaching assistant, so he need not be afraid. She then took him by the hand and proceeded to go to the toilet with him, again, to fight that blasted dragon.

I watched them from where I was, while my 2 year old ran around in the class acting like he was the taiko of that class, enjoying the stares of all the other children. I hope he will overcome his fears. I hope the teacher will comfort him. I hope he will be ok. I’m sure there was never really a ‘dragon’ in the toilet, but if there was (anything at all), I wish it to hell and to stop bothering my kid.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

A Visit to the Zoo

“The monkey vomited and then ate its own vomit!” my husband exclaimed, reminding me again why he doesn’t like to visit the zoo.

Any zoo. As long as there are animals in cages, he would not like it. His unfortunate experience at the Melaka Zoo years ago when he was still in kindergarten or some other school for very young people back in Malaysia still haunt him till this day. And he has always refused to visit a zoo due to this 'traumatic' episode that he was unfortunate enough to have witnessed, even after I begged him to take our children to any one of the other zoos in Malaysia, for the lack of any other obvious attractions that would be fun and educational for the children. “But that thing happened aeons ago!” I would say, “I’m sure it’s not that bad in this day and age.” But his answer has always been ‘no’.

Last weekend, however, he surprisingly relented, although I am sure his major reason was probably because we honestly, honestly didn’t know where else to bring our young children for a day out in London. The wonderfully hot weather was a kind of invisible hand that pushed many parents to take their children for an outing during the weekend and to us, the London Zoo sounded like the perfect place to go and surely children friendly. And so, my husband managed to control any reflexive display of repulsion that he might have and took us to the London Zoo but still took care to remind me one more time of his horrific experience in another zoo long ago while we were on our way there. “I’m sure it will be good.” I said, feeling perfectly optimistic (that invisible hand again) and trying to rub some of my optimism on him. After all, this is London Zoo and isn’t London popular for all its wonderful tourist attractions?

Surprisingly, I was proven wrong.

Well, it was not really surprising. Because the truth is, we have heard before from friends who have visited the zoo that it was crap but we still went for the reasons stated above. Too bad for us, the rumours about the zoo turned out to be true. Although it cost a fortune to get pass the zoo entrance and we were ‘forced’ to donate £1.50 per person on top of it (it was included in the quoted amount to be paid but my efficient husband quickly mentioned that he didn't want to make any donations and so we got through with £4.50 'saved' and appearing mean and stingy to that man at the gate), inside the zoo itself it didn’t look like it had enough budget to do much maintenance. Some of the buildings looked dilapidated and a lot of the animals e.g. the bears were not making an appearance for reasons unknown. The worst was the aquarium and the reptilian exhibit which looked very poorly maintained as some tanks were bereft of any animals and were left looking dirty and unkempt with overgrown plants and moss.

But to be fair, all was not horrible because at least, the animals that made an appearance looked pretty well and healthy albeit a little lazy (no vomiting monkeys, to my relief, or I would never hear the end of it! ) And there were some nice attractions like wonderful butterflies flying all around you in the butterfly house, the tiny monkeys swinging free from tree to tree, tigers behind glass windows so near that you feel you could almost ‘touch’ them and at the children’s zoo, children can go in to touch and feed farm animals like sheep, goats and pigs to their hearts’ content. More importantly, the zoo was kept quite clean although indeed, it was a little shabby in some spots. However, even with these compensations, I think the whole experience was not a very memorable one and we didn't think we'll ever go there again, even with the reasonable discount given to anyone who wants a repeat audience with the animal kingdom.

But I dunno. Come on, anyone out there..tell me which zoo did any one of you have been to that really awed you big time and made you fall in love with animals? I remember the first zoo that I ever visited was the Zoo in Ulu Kelang, Selangor. That was when I fell into a deep monsoon drain while eating an ice-cream (I was very, very young). No doubt the animals there didn't impress me much at the time for obviously my concentration was focused on that ice cream. I remember being lifted out of that drain just a little wet (for there was not much water in it, thank goodness!) and looking back in dismay at my ice-cream lying there in the drain. But that did not 'traumatise' me enough to discourage me from visiting more zoos.The next zoo that I went to was the Singapore Zoo and I was quite impressed with that. Then again, I was around 8 years old at the time, so I cannot really trust my memory of that place. I remember walking around with my sister and seeing a scorpion crawling free near a restaurant in that zoo - was that a memory of mine or a nightmare?

Well, I suppose the most important thing is the children had a good time that weekend, although I am pretty sure the visit to the zoo will not stick in their memory chips for any longer than 1 month. They probably would have forgotten already if I had not shown them the pics we took there. My conclusion is, I guess, zoos are not really all that interesting to children although they could be quite educational - especially when it comes to teaching kids to remember never to concentrate on any other things besides the main stuff. And to never wander away from their parents, perhaps. More than that, I honestly can't say.

Friday, June 16, 2006

A Little Story

It was just for fun. It was one of the boys’ idea but they all joined in although there were not enough names for everyone. There is no harm in ‘booking’ the names of the new girls who are coming to the school and then wait anxiously and curiously to see their faces. The girls themselves would never know unless they told them. And none of them would for it was just for fun.

He picked her. Out of the many names of the new girls that were coming to their school – her name appealed to him most. Perhaps he recognised her by name, as his soul mate, but at such a young age, he would never have thought of such things although perhaps he had - without him realising, in his subconscience, not in his alert mind. No, never there. He was never a lady’s man and never has been interested in pursuing any girl. It’s not that he was disinterested, because he was. But frankly, no girl in his 19 years of life has ever really appealed to him, physically nor emotionally. The rest of the boys went for all the other names available but he did not spare the other names a glance. Only that one. And so he picked her to be his ‘conquest’, as the rest of the boys chose the other names to be theirs in the new term.

The boys were waiting for the girls outside the refectory after tea. It was not their normal routine but this time it was different, as the new girls were having their tea inside and they all wanted an introduction. The school had nearly twenty Malaysians and they were really a close community. News of new Malaysians coming to the school would always excite everyone and so they stood patiently outside talking to each other while waiting for the girls to finish their tea.

He studied her in between the eager heads of boys wanting to be introduced to the new girls. She barely looked at him but he was quite happy with that, as he was able to study her quite discreetly. He would not classify her as a beauty. But she is attractive. And small – she must only reach his shoulders. When she talks, her face lights up and becomes animated. Her face is small and pointed and her cheeks lifts up becomingly each time she smiles. Her large eyes and slightly heavy lids are very similar to his own. Perhaps he’s going to take his ‘booking’ seriously after all, he thought. He smiled at a joke fervently made by one of the younger boys, eager to make an impression on the new girls. He must rejoin the group to appear as part of them, but he cannot command his legs to do his bidding when his eyes have found a straight path to her, from a spot that is surely out of her vision with all those boys standing in front of her. And so he stood there unable to move, watching her, his mood spiralling down as he thought of his prospects with a girl like her.

Some of the other boys did indeed pursue their ‘booking.’ It doesn’t matter, he would not pursue his interest in her. He will let it be. He is after all too young to dabble in such things. Nothing will become of his attraction to her. He will not let it happen because he doesn’t want it to happen. He wants to work hard for his studies. His parents have put all their hopes in him, being the eldest, and he will not let them down. He will just admire her from afar. The Christmas dance tonight will enable him to watch her again, discreetly, as he does everyday in the refectory while she ate and in the library while she read and worked. Nobody notices. He will take a glance at her now and then to see what she was doing while he does his own thing. Maybe she would dance tonight. She would laugh at her dance partner and smile or laugh at his jokes and he will bask in her laughter. From afar. He will not ask her to dance. No, they hardly knew each other and he would find it awkward to ask her hand for a dance although he would probably ask some of the other girls for a few rounds of ceilidh. But he’ll sit out the waltz – that dance is too special to waste on the other girls. Yes, he would have to satisfy himself by just watching her waltz, instead of dancing with her.

‘May I have this dance?’ he asked her, before the start of the waltz.

She was taken aback, because he has been dancing with all the other girls but her and she did not expect to partner him for any of the dances this night. She trembled as she took his offered hand and went to the dance floor with him, feeling small beside his tall figure.
And then the music started and they danced.

And then suddenly she looked up, into his eyes and said; ‘I’m in love with you.’

She did not notice him at the refectory that first time they were introduced 2 months ago. And when the girls mentioned his name later, she looked at them blankly for she honestly could not remember that name or a face to associate with it. She remembered all of the other boys but not the one described as tall and lanky with longish hair and spectacles. She doubted she could forget any of the boys for there were not many – only 12 of them. She remembered the funny one, the handsome one, the laid back one, the Chinese one, the short one, the friendly one, the quiet one, the one with his hands always in his pockets, the cheeky one, the one full of self-importance and the big sized one. Not the lanky one. Why would she miss that one? But she did and she vowed she would notice him the next time they meet.

She wondered why she did not notice him that first time. Maybe it was because he was standing a little apart from the other boys - she has come to notice that he is a little quiet when surrounded by a noisy crowd. But during that walk back to the house – on that fateful day when they were destined to leave the hockey pitch at the same time and had to walk together, or else risk ignoring each other forever, he easily made her warm up to him. He charmed her with his jokes and dry wit – a side of him she had never seen previously in the days before that when they had always only smiled at each other occasionally and he seemingly taking great pains to avoid having to talk to her.
They had bonded during that short walk. And she was confused by the fact that later he maintained his previous detachment towards her, especially when they were in a crowd. But she was even more hurt by his indifference when they were alone in the library, only the two of them left after all the rest have gone for their lunch or break and she had purposely waited to see whether he would leave or stay back as he usually would and she would hope that he would approach her again and talk again. Like the closest of friends. Like true soulmates. Like that fateful day at the hockey pitch. But he never did.

And she was dismayed by the fact that he had ‘forgotten’ her. And she realised that maybe, perhaps, she had fallen in love with him, for why would she be feeling such heartache at his indifference? But 'in love' from that short conversation during that short walk? She will not entertain her own ridiculous notion. She will forget she ever had any feelings for him. She refused to acknowledge that she ever had any feelings for him. But still she could not help thinking about him from the moment she open her eyes in the mornings, and right before she went to bed. And so she must concede to her heart’s demands, telling her that she has fallen in love with him.

She was sad to the point of depression by the fact that he did not ask to dance with her. His charm and wit and smiles were given liberally that night to everyone but her. And so in a moment of sudden boldness she made up her mind to tell him of her feelings for him – to bare her heart to him so that he will reject her and tell her that she’s crazy once and for all. So that she will be forced to forget about him. So that her heart will break and be done with, instead of aching so deeply.

And so as the music started and as he lead her to the dance floor, she looked up into his unreadable eyes and said, “I’m in love with you.”

She could not have said what he heard her say. His heart soared against his own instincts and sane conscious thoughts and he felt himself at the top of the world. A cliché, but no other description will do. But he was a little confused as to the reasons why and so he whisked her outside through the entrance doors and there they stood apart, looking at each other.

“Why?” he asked her, simply, but his voice was strained.
“Perhaps,” she replied slowly, “I’m going crazy because I cannot think of anything else but you day and night and I currently doubt I can do anything else but pine for you for the rest of my life if I don't have you. Or perhaps my heart is just playing tricks on me – puppy love and all that. Or maybe, and I don’t doubt this is the truth, it’s simply because my heart recognised its mate. I know, you think I’m crazy, right? So I need you to tell me now that you don’t love me and you don’t have any feelings for me so that I can try and get on with my life,” she said, her voice steady and nonchalant but he could almost hear her heart beating against her chest.

“But,” he said feeling exhilarated and suddenly desperate at the same time, “you have given me no indication…at all!” he replied, his intonation strange, as if pleading.

“It doesn’t matter. I just need you to tell”

“Tell you? Tell you that I think of you day and night and that I believe I have finally found the mate to my very own soul? Tell you that in fact, from the moment I glanced at your name, I have felt myself attracted to you? That I have fallen in love with you from the moment I saw you?” he said, suddenly feeling relieved, like a terrible burden has been lifted off him and now he is free to do whatever he wants to do. To love, to cherish.
“No, you don’t understand,” she began.

But he lifted his fingers to her mouth softly and said, “because, I have been through all that and I am telling you just that.” And then it was her turn to feel the confusion he felt earlier. And yet, her heart too soared, against all logic, for she had not seen any indication of any of this from his behaviour.

“But, why have you been so..indifferent?” she asked, wanting him to explain more, for at that moment, she wanted so desperately to feel happy and yet she still could not believe what he was telling her.

He sighed slowly and said, “Because I thought I could suppress my feelings until it will all go away. And I don’t want to hurt you or distract you because we are all here with a mission to study and I don’t want to distract you. If you hadn’t told me how you felt, I would still try to be indifferent towards you and pray to God that I can forget you. But I have tried and tried and now…”

They just stood there for a long time, looking into each other’s eyes. If they were meant to be together, they would be good for each other, they would support and encourage each other and they would succeed together. They will brave their lives together. And they will be there for one another. And he, he will love her for the rest of his life for he knew that he has found his very own soul mate. And as he looked deeply into her dark brown eyes, he knew that she too, have found hers.

*Specially dedicated to my husband on his 30th birthday.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Virgins Awaiting Thee by The Gates?

I felt a little sad when I first heard about Zarqawi’s death. Not because I felt any great loss or because I thought he was a hero. But because he was fighting for an 'Islamic' cause. Well, supposedly.

You see, I, like many other muslims have a soft spot for anybody claiming to be fighting for an Islamic cause - simply because most of these people are either poor, starving, going to be killed, being chased out of their own homes or being oppressed. But I quickly realised that although Zarqawi was fighting for an ‘Islamic’ cause, he was also killing a lot of innocent people. And I cannot sympathise with that because that has never been the Islam way and will never be, and also because to me, nothing justifies the killing of innocent men, women and children.


I saw a report on the BBC1 news about how the Americans recognised the area where Zarqawi recorded one of his military training sessions and rounded up people from that area for questioning. Eventually somebody relented to their (no doubt highly effective) methods of questioning and presumably choked out the address of that safehouse. So the Americans watched that house day and night for a few weeks before finally, they ‘saw’ Zarqawi arriving for a meeting. And so they launched their missiles. And that was it. Don’t you just hate these ‘air-raids’ type attack that has the American and Israeli stamp all over them? It is, in my opinion, a method without honour and a cowardly way to neutralize one's enemies. Doubt they even know what honour means anymore. Now, if you read the historical romance novels that I normally read, well, there you will find many examples of honourable men. But I digress, and anyway, that’s fiction. Unfortunately in this current world of ours, it might even be bordering into fantasy.

But obviously, Zarqawi himself was far from honourable. Indeed, his methods were despicable and he, himself apparently was not as ‘Islamic’ as he wanted to portray to the world. Tattoos on his body and his intense hatred for the Shiites were reported to be few of the reasons why even Bin Laden and the deceased did not get along well, even from when they first met.

I guess, what I’m trying to say is, many Muslims would secretly sympathise with these Islamic jihadists, however brutal their methods, which many believe is caused by desperation. But as you can see from Zarqawi, his killings and his character, one cannot help but wonder if he was indeed pushed by desperation or just by a taste for violence. Or even, a disregard for something as precious as life itself. Or simply, an affliction of the brain.

Perhaps that’s stretching it a bit. Then again, maybe not. I'm not glad he's dead. But I think the world is better off without him.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Summer Glummer

I love hot weather. It has been wonderfully sunny weather in London these last few days. Today, the weather forecast is clear and sunny with a maximum temperature of 28 degrees Celsius. And I’ve been rummaging my sparse cupboard again and again for something bright and summery to wear – hoping that something light like a summer dress, perhaps, will magically appear the next time I look through my pile of worn out clothes.

Oh why, why didn’t I take my whole Malaysian wardrobe to England? I should have remembered that although ‘England’ usually equals ‘dark, cold and gloomy weather’, they do have some hot months each year. It’s not that I’ve never lived here before. But yes, during my university days here, I usually spend the summer months back in Malaysia, so I guess that’s why I simply forgot to pack some hot weather clothes in my luggage when I came. And to those of you who know me, you will know the almost indecent amount of clothes and shoes that I have back there. Well, at least now it feels indecent. Back then it was just...normal. I guess it's my lot at the moment to feel some of life's 'hardships'.

So this is my first ever summer in England. Where do you go around here when you have not much money and 2 kids in tow? I guess for us this year it wil be the parks and maybe try and sample the more children friendly attractions in London. I wonder what that will be. I shall find out. Maybe I'll report to you people if we find something nice.

The hot weather makes me want to wear the one and only colourful green vietnamese batik skirt that I have - and wearing that makes me happy coz it reminds me of home. Not that Vietnam is home. It's just the colourful batik patterns - similar to the ones that we have in Malaysia. Not that the ones that we have in Malaysia are made in Malaysia. I think most of the good ones are Indonesian made although there are a few Malaysian batik factories, I suppose. I think it would be blasphemy or something if I didn't state here that err...Malaysian Batik is the BEST (satisfied?). So, why was it..oh drat...I lost my train of thought.

This weather makes me lazy and sleepy. I don't think I like the hot weather after all. I just thought I like it because I wanted to dress up just like when I was back home.

I miss my heeled sandals.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Mayo Chicken

A quick one people, for it’s time for a recipe. This one is specially for a friend who informed me in an email that she wants to cook something different for her fussy little eater (you know who you are). It’s a chicken recipe – easy for all you busy people out there for the prep time is quick, it’s easy and it tastes good too. Straight to it:

Chicken pieces with skin – I normally use 4 pieces of chicken thighs but I’ve tried using 1 whole chicken as well and it works great.
Turmeric powder
Salt and pepper for seasoning
Curry powder

Rub the chicken all over with the turmeric powder, salt and curry powder. Arrange the chicken pieces in your baking tray or ovenware. Cover the chicken with some mayonnaise – just all around the surfaces, don’t bother to put any on the bottom of the chicken pieces because once the chicken is in the oven and coking, the melted mayo will cover those parts. Leave to marinate for 1 hour. Heat oven at 200 degrees – once oven is ready, cook chicken for 35 minutes. If you’re cooking 1 whole chicken, cook according to weight, 20-25 mins for each 500g plus an extra 20 mins for 1 chicken.

You don’t need to cover the chicken with foil if you’re just cooking the pieces. But if you’re cooking 1 whole chicken, it’s better to cover first and only take off the foil for the last 20 mins to make the skin crispy. Lastly, sprinkle some pepper on the chicken while it’s still hot.

Try it!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

These Old Shades

I have 3 bad memories that I have consciously pushed to the furthest corners of my mind. And I don’t know why in heaven’s name I’m even thinking of writing about them here now but in my current morose mood I just want to wallow even deeper and dwell in the shadow of these memories, just to make me feel, well, even worse. I tend to do that sometimes. I didn’t use the word ‘shadow’ just to play around with the word or to add some creativity in this entry. I used the particular word because in truth, I cannot even begin to face some of these memories, for the vague details that I attach to them will become so vivid once I step across that memory threshold and I don’t think I can face them. Not yet.

And yes, one of the memories involves a death of a loved one. There, my throat constricts and my chest tightens the moment I start thinking about it, and I have not even begin recalling the details. I suppose, subconsciously even as I begin to type about it, I am already there in the shadows. But I just cannot go there, at least, if I want to finish this blog still emotionally and mentally intact!

The other is a painful experience. And it involves a lot of anger, for I was mistreated, bullied and sneered at like a common criminal - by the British Immigration Authorities, no less. No, I nearly added a descriptive swear word there and I refuse to resort to that to make me feel better. The experience was too painful for any words I can grasp right now and so, no, I will not go there as well.

And that leaves the final memory. And this one is safe, for it is rather silly in some parts and it is due to my own embarrassment that I have pushed this memory far, far away.

It’s my memory of school.

Don’t get me wrong – my loathing for this memory is no less serious than the other memories. I cringe when I think of my old school but I have to face this memory like I have to face the other bad memories some time in my life and in my current cynical and self deprecating mood, I am more inclined to indulge in the farce that was my experiences in school. I might as well.

Coffee break. After thinking for some time about the whys and what of this surpressed perhaps irrational feeling, to my surprise, I still could not put my finger on what exactly made me hate the memories of school. It’s not the memory of all the schools that I have been to. It’s just that particular one. It was and still is a reputable all-girls boarding school, situated somewhere in Malaysia. There were no bullies, no ragging and no physical cruelty nor violence in the school. The food was exceptional, I was told, if compared to other boarding schools and in all honestly, that was never a problem for me. The buildings and compound were more or less satisfactory although the hockey field was not too level and in fact was bare on various spots - but we won the tournaments anyway, so that was never a problem, I suppose. The man made waterfall was a tad extravagant and excessive and the canteen contractor was slimy but I hardly ever gave that a thought. And so I suppose, (with dread, as I turn my thoughts to look at what I now know to be the reason of my loathing,) I suppose it is the students and the teachers there.

Oh-oh. There’s that tightening of the chest again. So, I suppose, that must be it.

God, I’m cringing to pin point the exact details. Plus, my mind is blocking the exact memories that I’m trying to reach – seriously! Let me see now…the students and the teachers. I’ll start with the teachers.

Yes, I guess I have never been truly happy with the teachers. Not any teacher in particular, mind. Just how in general the teachers of the school treated the students. And within that notion, I don’t mean how all the teachers were with all the students, just how some of the teachers treated some of the students. And even in that, I would like to add, may or may not include myself as a victim of this ‘maltreatment’. Is that complex enough for you? I hope so because I'm feeling a little dazed myself after typing that.

I guess this came about after I one day realised that my 5 years experience in that school created a character trait in me that is most unnerving. And that is a low self-esteem. I suppose not everyone was affected as I have been. After all, different people react differently to these things. But I have seen a certain pattern amongst my ex school mates. It’s not so much a lack of self-confidence but a lack of the need to pursue excellence and to believe wholeheartedly that one can do the things that one desires. And to be prominent. And to show one’s capabilities. Touché. That is it. I think many of my friends from school are truly talented and brilliant but somehow they managed to keep it under wraps because they were not encouraged to ‘show-off’ their own brand of magic. Obviously, to be humble is a good thing but not when opportunity is staring you at the face and you don’t even realise that you are destined for better things with your God given talents and capabilities. Simply because you have never been encouraged to spread your wings and think better of yourself. Simply because your teachers wrongly assumed that you have already full knowledge of your capabilities at such an early age and rather than keeping that fire alive, they chose to put you ‘in your place’. And that is the cause of the affliction of many of my old friends, I feel. Alas, alas. And indeed I see myself as one of them.

In a school where the students were supposed to be the ‘cream of the cream’ (pardon the unintentional snobbery), I feel the teachers could have done a better job at encouraging the students to pursue excellence, excellence and more excellence. Not by telling the students this word-by-word but by their day-to-day actions, advice, counselling, student programmes and how they nurture these students during the crucial phase when one’s personality is developed. I read somewhere that a child’s personality and character is ‘fully’ developed at the age of 15 when finally at that age it stops developing and that child’s personality at 15 will likely remain with her forever. And the critical point is during the early stages of secondary school, during the lower forms. How about that?

It’s really a psychological thing. After all, the teachers are the elected ‘mothers and fathers’ of the students when they were at school, especially in a boarding school. Thus, it’s their duty to teach and bring the students up accordingly and in their best capacity. Unfortunately, I think, at my old school they only managed to encourage rebellion and the need to show resistance. I used to think that some of the teachers were quite jealous of the students, especially, I’m sorry to say, the teachers of the lower forms. They discourage and say things like ‘don’t think you’re so clever’ when what they should actually say is, ‘you are all naturally bright and talented people so you must push yourselves harder.’ Of course, they are not the majority but the exception. The majority, however, are not the ones who encourage the students but have no impact at all on the students but for their exam results. And because of the vacuum in support, the effect brought on by the exception was great. Am I making any sense? It’s not so easy after all to analyse these unwanted memories even when you’re ready to face them.

Of course, I’m writing all this from my own experiences. I’ve typed my stories in great length in a Word document but I’ve decided not to publish them because they are really quite personal. But I’d like to point out one of the major vices of the teachers I had in my old school. It was known to all the students during my time that gossiping about the students was one of the teachers’ favourite past time in the staff room. The teachers loved to talk about what outrageous things this student or that student did but this need not matter if they could act indifferent to these students and just teach them as they should or even better, give extra attention to these students who obviously have certain ‘problems’ or ‘issues’ to deal with and perhaps offer their kind advice and counselling. Instead, they start to act ‘coldly’ towards her in class, already branding her as ‘problematic.’ And that is when, I think, they sow the seeds of rebellion in the girl if she is made of any strong stuff at all. If she is the weaker type however, she will feel humiliated and alone and depressed and God knows what that will lead to and how that will affect her character development at that age. Yes, I’ve come to the conclusion that 1 or 2 of my lower form teachers were quite detrimental to my development as a person. I guess I didn't have enough of that 'strong stuff' in me, although I didn't exactly go into a depression.

The students

You see, a boarding school is like a small little world of its own. You don’t have to watch the news about America and Britain attacking Iraq because I’ve seen some students ‘attacking’ a girl accused of something she has never admitted to, I think, until today. It only has to be proven by a neutral body that she has never done that ‘thing’ and it will be exactly like the Iraq WMD situation. And the similarities of school life to things happening in your life? At your office, for example; that woman sucking up to the boss and getting a promotion or somebody cheating on her husband with someone else (in my school’s case, a girl already has a ‘pet-sis’ but still writes ‘messages’ to somebody else or worse, goes on a ‘date’ with another senior – isn't that hilarious!). And occurences like a religious group forcing their views upon you and even power play at the office. Take my word for it, all this can be found in a boarding school albeit in smaller doses and perhaps on a more innocent scale. And the types of people in the world too; braggarts, hypocrites, liars, thieves, cheats, innocents, gullible, sly. You name it. A boarding school is really the real world in miniature size, but magnified. And yet it’s still only a small school with a few hundred students inside. Pathetic.

Am I going to be banned from the school reunions after this?

I have not been the perfect saint myself. In fact, I myself cannot bear to think of the stupid and ridiculous things I did in school although, after double-checking with some juniors apparently I didn’t make too much a fool of myself. But nevertheless, I still shudder when I think of my own actions and I certainly cannot bear to think of the other people who were equally and even more so ridiculous. I know its double standard but I cringe when I think of my past actions but I get annoyed and irritated when I think of the actions of others in that school. So that’s why I do not like to meet up with my ex schoolmates. It’s nothing personal, girls. Really. It’s just those horrible memories. They are just too embarrassing that surely I will not be able to look at anyone in the eye when we meet! Forgive and forget, somebody told me. After 13 years of leaving the school, yes, of course one must do that, but I find that I still cannot. Not yet. Not just yet.

Oh God, I feel that tightening in my chest again…