Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Another Trip To UPM

I just could not get enough of UPM. I love the trees, the greens and the "old stuff" around the campus that really put me in peace. I regret for not having the opportunity to be part of UPM. Tak der rezeki, some people say. You see back in 1988 I received a call from Prof Abu Talib; back then he was in the Faculty of Computer Science, and offered me a lectureship. I just came back from the US and was sleeping around the house for not knowing what the heck really I was suppose to do. I talked to him and he said the form will be on the way, you fill it up and send it back to us. The borang never came and when I called back no one knew what I was talking about. So naive and lack of information I just left it at that and never pursued that half-baked offer. If I just happened to hop on one of the late night buses to KL; things could be different. But again my life would be in different path...I guess it is the case of predetermination or Qadha' and Qadar. I met Prof Abu Talib many years later and he barely remembered the incident, again I believe it never meant to be. Today I was in the Faculty of Forestry, the only faculty of such in the country( so I was told) and really enjoyed the serene environment. Having lunch at the gerai there with food which I think not meant for human consumption but I swallowed it nevertheless to feel the surrounding environment. A couple of hours later I've got a nasty stomach ache from that lunch food. But it's OK because I was there in UPM the place I was never meant to be.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Spirit of ihsan

Ihsan (Arabic: احسان), also ehsan or ahsan is an Arabic term meaning "perfection" or "excellence," which is related to the word "goodness" (Ara. husn). It is a matter of taking one's inner faith (iman) and showing it in both deed and action, a sense of social responsibility borne from religious convictions. In Islam, ihsan is the Muslim responsibility to obtain perfection, or excellence, in worship, such that Muslims try to worship God (Arabic Allah) as if they see Him, and although they cannot see Him (due to the belief that Allah is not made of materials), they undoubtedly believe that He is constantly watching over them. That definition comes from the hadith (known as the Hadith of Gabriel) in which Muhammad states, "[Ihsan is] to worship God as though you see Him, and if you cannot see Him, then indeed He sees you." (Al-Bukhari and Al-Muslim).[1] In contrast to the emphases of islam (what one should do) and iman (why one should do), the concept of ihsan is primarily associated with intention. One who "does what is beautiful" is called a muhsin. It is generally held that a person can only achieve true ihsan with the help and guidance of Allah, who governs all things.
With this spirit in mind, IHSAN (IISSA Help & Support Network) was initiated. As education is vital for the future of our children, making sure that they receive good education is equally important. We believe that teaching and learning would be far better if everybody (parents and teachers) comes together to create a conducive environment for the children to grow and learn. So it is our aim to extend the extra help and support needed for ISSA to be an excellent place for our children to learn and study.

The aims that IHSAN will strive to meet are as follows :

1. To help create a conducive environment for teaching and learning at IISSA.
2. To promote a sense of goodwill among all parties related to IISSA (parents, students, teachers, staff etc).
3. To function as a platform for discussion between parents and teachers on matters related to IISSA.
4. To support all activities related to IISSA’s vision and missions.
5. To help and support parents morally as well as financially whenever the need arises regarding the well-being of their children at IISSA.

In order to achieve our aims we pray to Allah for help and guidance. IHSAN has also established a few small committee to carry out our missions (as shown in the following diagram )

How can you help ?

It is our sole intention to help the school in whatever circumstances it is in; in doing so we believe that our children will benefit the most. Therefore parents’ help is the utmost important source that can realize this thought. Our contribution with ikhlas will create good support with barakah and this will nurture a solid islamic foundation for our children to love ‘ilm, respect the elders and practice islam. Contribution could be in cash or kinds. Please contact our Treasurer (En Herizal) if you need further details on this matter.


IHSAN activities are planned as follows :
Mei :Gathering dan Tazkirah
Jun : 1 Day Seminar
Julai : Committee Meeting
Ogos : Ihya’ Ramadhan
September : Program Ramadhan
Oktober : Eid-ul-Fitri
November : Ihtifal (bersama program IISSA)
Disember : Family Day
The dates and venue will be informed in due time.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Halal meat and cooking meals

Saudi brothers doing the lamb.
I've got it. I think!
The view from my front door ! WSU campus was just across the street.

I am supposed to finish up my programming today about my research but you know I just feel not in the mood to do anything academic today. Well actually it has been for the last two weeks I think; the laziness has overtaken the noble intention to produce an award winning research product that will save the world from something…. But as I sat still in front of my half written screen my mind set off to the far far away land that I used to live and used to wake up to the glorious summer sunshine. Wichita looked like home in the summer only hotter. The wind blew in the heat as if you put your bare ass in front of the hot oven. So we spent a lot of time outside the house because most of us could not afford an air conditioner. In the summer we would go around the farms looking for lambs. Since halal meat was so difficult to get some of us would go and slaughtered the lambs ourselves. The farm owners would always be stunned with the way we handled the animals. But as we explained that this is our way then they would leave us alone. “tell me once you guys have finished, I’ll be out front” he would say as he left us, maybe disgusted or something. Actually he would be in a lot of trouble if somebody find out about this as it is illegal to kill animals without permit in America. I slaughtered a calf once with my friend at the back of a farm way outside Wichita. The farm owner came to us with a big hammer. “what is that for?” I asked him “ to kill that little cow, of course” he said. Usually he would hammer that thing down before he cut out the meat. I explained to him how we are gonna do it. “Okay whatever you say boys” he shrugged and threw the hammer to the corner of the barn. I think we worked on that calf for about 2 hours; took us sometime because we did not how to skin it properly.

The trip was always exciting---summertime fun. I'm the one with the ass-face look (leftmost).
But getting halal meat was always a priority to us and alhamdulillah we managed to get it eventually. During thanksgiving time we would go and get some turkeys (ayam belanda) and that would last a week or so. Sometime we had to travel all the way to Kansas City to buy some halal meat; or the nearby Stillwater Oklahoma for halal chickens. To resort to non-halal meat was really an excuse. Towards the end of my stay in Wichita the local supermarket had stocked some frozen chickens and were labeled “halal”….but we stayed away from ‘em because we did not really trust these people. Seafood was really expensive as they came in frozen so we did not get much of fish, crabs or anything like that. We bought some dried sotong once from a Thai store and that didn’t do anything good to us as we did not know how to cook them. Speaking of cooking, that’s really a big challenge. Most of us did not know how to cook but at the same time we did not eat outside; so the solution is to take turns and do whatever you feel like with the meat or chicken. As long as it is “eatable” we just swallowed it down. At first it did not work out well because some of the cooking just “not meant for human consumption”; but after a while we get used to frying chicken without burning it. So it was okay.

I learnt how to make curry so every time it’s my turn to cook then it would always be curry. Since santan wasn’t there; I used tomato paste instead. Now it is my favorite dish to cook curry with tomato paste. Quite delicious, you know. OK time to go now. Tomorrow I will come back and stare at my half written screen again hoping for the program to finish. Hopefully the mood will get better; otherwise I will tell you another story !

Monday, April 20, 2009

Choral Speaking Performance at SMS PPuteh Kelantan

nice outfit

that green leaf made the headturns more visible

some hand signs

a bit of body movements

some formations

they seemed to enjoy it

so young and beautiful

trying to maintain the pitch

.....good effort, good performance.....congratulations!

Facing conflicts

On Sunday I attended a PTA meeting at my children’ school. And as usual meeting would not complete without conflict of opinion. I promised myself to be calm and collected as I can smell the conflict brewing before the meeting. I don’t need such conflict to ruin the weekend since it has been quite a wonderful one so far. I am too old for this and pressures will just make you old faster than usual. But some things can be let go while some others we have to drag the feet through it.; and this is one of them. The issue was to improve the Quranic reading at the school. Of the late I noticed that some students have been lagging behind in their Quranic reading; while the principal was boasting about the high level of Hafazan among the students. For me hafazan would be meaning less if the students could not read what they have memorized. The school would give excuses of lack of teachers to handle the students on one to one basis. I said implementation is secondary as the objective would take a priority. Is the objective to improve reading the Quran or to produce hafiz or hafizah? They wanted both. Ok that’s fine but you cannot compromise one at the expense of the other. Since resource is the problem then this is inevitable.

The problem is reading the Quran will start with Iqra’ series as we all are familiar with (Iqra’1 -6). In order to get through these series you would need a learning mechanism with one-to-one basis and a consistent daily routine. It is tedious and utterly boring. The child would make all sort of excuses to skip this learning because of its difficulty. BUT it is necessary , there is no short cut to this. If the school could not do it than you have to find private tuition for it. One way or the other this learning process has to go on. Actually it should be done with during tadika years but if not let’s take the first two years of primary school; and they should complete the Iqra by then.By Yr 3 the kid can start reading the Quran and Khatam by Yr 6. In secondary school years they can opt for Hafazan and complete the whole Quran by PMR if doing full time or by SPM if on part-time basis. So that’s how I see it but some people have other ideas. Since I can’t see what the ideas will bring forth ; that has created unnecessary conflict. I guess I have to go and find out what they have been thinking before everything falls apart.

Hafazan takes a different path to the Quranic reading. Mainly the focus is on sound; the long and the short of it. The technique for hafazan has been around for a long time. I remember when I was learning the Quran, the tok guru would ask us to “perdeghah” (practice) all the time. If we could not make the sound properly or forgot how to make out the sound then she the tok guru would go into a “pontianak” look and told us off to go back and practice some more. And that’s how I learned or “unlearned” the Quran. I never finished with that tok guru. Too garang. She was my auntie. May her soul rest in peace.

I will continue to find a solution to resolve this issue; one way or the other.

Monday, April 6, 2009

My Struggle with English 101

The most difficult subject since I’ve known ABC is of course English. In primary school, the English teacher had left a phobia in me….his perfume! Everytime I was scolded for saying an English word in Kelantanese accent, his stinking-cheap-nose-grabbing perfume would get into me. I will be in “phobic” whenever someone has the same odor on him. The subject was difficult then and it was even more difficult when I was in Wichita doing my undergraduate. I was on my third and final chance to get into the program as everyone has to pass this stupid English test called the Exit Examination before entering the university.So I registered into this class English 101 (for international students only). It was so depressing to be among the worst English speaking group of people on the face of the earth. They were mainly from Asian countries including Malaysia (mostly the kampong guys, like myself).It was the subject that I have been through many many times but it just could not get into my head. The mission was final and the action was desperate. And when a man is desperate he would not be thinking straight. I cheated….yes this poor guy cheated on his many assignments copying the essays and composition homework….they have a fancy name for that now….plagiarism! But at that time the mind set of a malay kampong boy was still unchanged….still suka meniru kawan…..how on earth would you escape when you copied an essay? An essay is basically a story, if copied then you were telling the same stories…how much is there for creativity? I was caught and so were a bunch of other friends of mine in that class…apparently I was not the only one desperate to get this over with. I was speechless when the teacher confronted not because of scared or anything but I just did not know how to answer her. In my mind I had all sort of reasons to cover the actions, but I guess world has no ears to listen to me. The jinx of this subject would remain in me for many more years to come. I was penalized for that particular assignment but did not fail that 101 class. I pulled it through with a C and went on to pass the Exit Examination.

The struggle was enormous effort for me. I just could not let it pass like that but keep English always on my tip toes. I can forget Maths or Calculus but not English. I will never let this one go for whatever reason the world wants me to. It will be mine for ever. This is my English and I will write the way I want it to sound. I want my English to tell you my stories….my own way.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Health Screening at UiTM

I pissed a bottle full of urine. They took a couple of tube (40ml) of my blue-blood for all sort of tests. I just could not imagine so much of my good blood being extracted away for reasons that I never know. They promised to come back with the analysis.
Then I went for the following tests :
  1. BP : 157/93 (hypertension warning)
  2. Grip test : left: 38 right:34
  3. ECHO : normal heart
  4. ECG : normal heart rate
  5. ABI : 150/130 = 1.15 : normal
  6. lung : 3.4;297;467
  7. PWV : artery normal, BP high
This Health Screening program was organised by the faculty of medicine with support from WHO. So it is free!. They go around the country to take the samples as part of their research project. Check them out, maybe they will come near your place. Contact Pusat Kesihatan UiTM for further details. It is open to everyone above 35 years old.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Wichita & The Wheat shockers

The Wichita State University; I was still skinny so it must be during my first year there (with Halim)

I was in Wichita during the golden years of my adolescence. It was the time I learnt to pick up my life from the shattered memories back home. I really wanted to change and be someone. The years in Wichita had really seen me grow up to face the world. I owe it to my friends at Wichita during that time for supporting me in every way. Well, there were about 500 Malaysian students in and around Wichita during that time , so it was really at home.

International Day at WSU
Wichita had become home for the next four years or so. I lived in an apartment at the Wheatshocker Apartments.It was a nice place but not a type of accommodation that we
used to back home in Malaysia…..it was like living in a hostel that I hated so much. But you have to service the contract so I was stuck there for another year I think.

My favorite place in Wichita(North Roosevelt) where I spent most of my time living in one of these houses

at 1747 North Roosevelt with Yahya and Rosli

At the WSU,  learning computers and programming was primitive. Back then we used punch card machines to type in the programs, and then we brought that stack of cards to the machine reader that would read the program , compiled and executed it. Sometimes it took two or three days to get the run back, just compare it to what we have today. I learnt Pascal, PL/1 and Cobol that way. By the second year we had a terminal ( a monochrome with IBM blue console) and that was a relief as the execution of the program had gotten much easier.

at The Wichita Airport

Summer time in the Midwest was hot and dry. Most Americans would escape the hot summer in Wichita by holidaying at the coasts; but most of us would take that opportunity to catch up with the summer school. So most of the summers I would be hanging around Wichita for classes and lab sessions. It was really hot sometime, I tell you. We would spent time playing a lot in the afternoon; basketball, American football, tennis etc. There were so many of us, so finding team members to play with would not be a problem. We did go traveling after the summer school finished; about a month or so before the new semester began.

on the way back from LA

America is a big country so traveling by car will take you across an endless plain field of the Midwest. Usually we would hire a car and went around the country visiting friends at the big cities like LA, New York or Florida. The drive was long and seemed endless but we always had company as everybody was into traveling in the summer. The rest areas would be packed with people and it was like a “funfair atmosphere” sometimes.

having picnic at the lake in Wichita

my favorite past time

with the trophy we were fighting for that summer.

The fall season was short as we spent at the lecture rooms most of the time. Otherwise watching NFL or NBA on the telly. Before you knew it the cold season had arrived. Cold wind blew you off at minus degrees most of the time. And the rain just spoilt your day; could not go out and play like we used to in the summer. Towards the end of my stay; WSU had just opened up a new gymnasium, so we spent playing basketball and what not over there in the big gym. By Christmas, the snow would arrive making the roads and the fields white. Winter season was nasty in Wichita; sometime there was an ankle-high snow on the road. It was beautiful, no doubt, as the snowflakes covered the leaves and branches; but after a while when the sun took a peek for a few hours, the snow turned icy , dirty, and slippery and that would be mighty dangerous. Days were short in the winter and most of the time the atmosphere was cold, dark and gloomy. Utterly depressing. So most of us would escape the long cold winter in Wichita to join other Malaysians at a convention somewhere. It will be quite sometime to see the snow before the spring arrived in Feb/March.

at a Malaysian Students Convention in Houston

relaxing in between the lectures
The cycle began again for us there, with the school and all, but every time the new season began I would feel like growing up into a whole new world. In fact Wichita had taught me a lot and will remain as part of my life for a long long time.