Just before I get the sack …

It was student review and reflection time again this week – one of my least favourite times of the term – where pupils reflect on their progress, fill in a form, and then take it home for their parents to sign.  I don’t like it because, in my experience, young children are incapable of reflecting on their strengths and weaknesses and simply parrot what I’ve been telling them all year.  So I could just tell their parents directly, and cut out all the tedious form-filling admin.

Anyway, I was reading through the comments my pupils had written, and was rather alarmed to see this one –

The parents will think I’m running a den of vice, where I fleece the kids of their pocket money every week.  I wondered whether to add: this is an educational game suggested to me by the deputy head, but I don’t want to sound as though I’m desperately trying to justify myself, so I haven’t.

To make matters worse, the parents probably won’t know that Kahoot is an online learning game, so they’ll assume that their child and I are in cahoots to hide my kindi-casino, but the child can’t spell.

Oh, well … on a brighter note, I have a new Best Friend this week.  Phoebe, aged four, has joined my class, and I knew we’d clicked straightaway when she invited me to go home with her and have a bath.

It’s certainly one of the strangest invitations I’ve ever had, and am still considering whether or not to accept.  I’m hoping there was no hidden agenda – I did a bit of surreptitious armpit sniffing – but I don’t think four-year-olds are that subtle.

In fact, I know that four-year-olds are not that subtle, thanks to an ego-crushing conversation I had yesterday:

Child 1: Teacher, why you got hair like boy?

Me: It’s not really like a boy’s, is it?  It’s just short.

Child 2: Teacher, why you got messy hair.  Did you forget to comb it?

Me:  It’s not messy – I just don’t have Chinese hair, that’s all.

Child 1: It’s ugly hair.

Me: Oh, dear.

Child 3:  Teacher, why your neck like that?

Me: Why is my neck like what?

Child 3: It looks like it’s been mashed.

I have decided that my next job will be in the Arctic Circle, and no one will ever see my ugly hair and mashed neck again.

 

 

 

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A boy called no one …

Names in Malaysia are an endless source of confusion and/or amusement.

Could anyone blame me for constantly confusing the two girls in the same class call Ya Jing and Ja Ying?  Or for not realising that a child with two names is usually known by both of them and not just one?  Do they have no surname?  Nobody seems to know, including the children in question.

A child with three names is usually known by the last two … unless the last of the three names is a western one in which case they’re known just by that last name … or unless they have four names and either the first or the last is a Western name, and then they’re just known by that one name.

I even have a girl whose name is @Zoe … any ideas on the pronunciation of that one?  I just call her Zoe and she answers quite happily to it.

I’m still struggling with Yue Xin (delightfully pronounced ‘you sin’), Xin Hui, Xin En, Zi En.  They’re all quiet girls in the same large class, and I still haven’t learnt which one is which.

And then the Western names they choose can be unusual too. Top of my current list of favourites is eight-year-old Winthrop.  And I often feel as though I’ve stepped back to the 1950s with a lot of the other boys – we have Kenneth, several Brians, Nigel, Leonard and Keith.

The spellings can be quite idiosyncratic too; there’s a girl called Looi and another called Noa, a boy called Lucausz, a Eunice and a Younes.

But the most confusing name has to be the one that is pronounced ‘no one’.

‘Hello, I’m Harry,’ said the new boy in the class.

‘Hello, I’m No one,’ came the reply.

Harry’s mother had to be reassured that her son’s new classmate doesn’t have profound psychological issues, which have resulted in an identity crisis, he simply has an unusual name.

I hear strange Through-The-Looking-Glass comments coming from their classroom:

‘No one stop talking!’

‘Good work No one!’

‘Does anyone know where No one’s gone?’

One morning, this class of six-year-olds all decided to insult each other with the insult du jour – ‘you’re a poo-poo’, so the teacher tried to calm the situation by saying ‘no one’s a poo-poo’.  It was an unfortunate choice of words, which made the situation worse.

Welcome to the surreal world of English teaching in Malaysia.

“Who did you pass on the road?” the King went on, holding out his hand to the Messenger for some more hay.
“Nobody,” said the Messenger.
“Quite right,” said the King; “this young lady saw him too. So of course Nobody walks slower than you.”
“I do my best,” the Messenger said in a sullen tone. “I’m sure nobody walks much faster than I do!”
“He can’t do that,” said the King, “or else he’d have been here first.”

 

 

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And the gold medal for public holidays goes to … Malaysia!

The number of public holidays here is truly insane.  If you’re used to the English system of three Bank Holiday Mondays a year – and be grateful for them – then the Malaysian system is a real eye-opener.

For a start, there are three main ethnic groups, so there are holidays for Islamic, Chinese and Indian festivals, plus all the other holidays for country-wide celebrations, like Independence Day.

Not only that, but the dates of the holidays can just randomly change with very little notice.  Imagine the rioting in the Home Counties if August Bank Holiday Monday was suddenly changed to August Bank Holiday Wednesday, a couple of weeks beforehand.

This has worked in my favour next week.  There was supposed to be a holiday next Thursday, which is one of my days off, but I found out on Monday that the holiday has now been moved to Friday, which gives me the equivalent of a long weekend … three days off in a row … yay!

And that’s in addition to the public holiday we had last week, and the one we’ve got this week … oh – and not to mention the five-day weekend we had two weeks ago.

The five-day weekend was originally supposed to be a four-day weekend at the end of August, because Eid and Independence day fell on two consecutive days – Thursday and Friday.  Then, on that Thursday, the Prime Minister announced that because of Malaysia’s outstanding performance in the South East Asia Games, he was declaring the Monday a Public Holiday too … Go Malaysia!

“There are too many public holidays in Malaysia. But… due to the overwhelming support and the tremendous performances by our athletes, therefore, the government would like to announce 4 September as a public holiday,” Najib announced to a roaring crowd.

And here’s a list of Kuala Lumpur’s public holidays for 2017:

Date Day Holiday
1 Jan Sun New Year’s Day
2 Jan Mon New Year Holiday
28 Jan Sat Chinese New Year
29 Jan Sun Chinese New Year Holiday
30 Jan Mon Chinese New Year Holiday
1 Feb Wed Federal Territory Day
9 Feb Thu Thaipusam
24 Apr Mon Installation of YDP Agong
1 May Mon Labour Day
10 May Wed Wesak Day
12 Jun Mon Nuzul Al-Quran
25 Jun Sun Hari Raya Aidilfitri
26 Jun Mon Hari Raya Aidilfitri Holiday
27 Jun Tue Hari Raya Aidilfitri Holiday
31 Aug Thu Merdeka Day
1 Sep Fri Hari Raya Haji
4 Sep Mon Sep 4 Holiday (SEA Games)
9 Sep Sat Agong’s Birthday

 

 

16 Sep Sat Malaysia Day
22 Sep Fri Awal Muharram
18 Oct Wed Deepavali
1 Dec Fri Prophet Muhammad’s Birthday
25 Dec Mon Christmas Day

And now compare that to England’s somewhat meagre ration:

1 January Monday New Year’s Day
30 March Friday Good Friday
2 April Monday Easter Monday
7 May Monday Early May bank holiday
28 May Monday Spring bank holiday
27 August Monday Summer bank holiday
25 December Tuesday Christmas Day
26 December Wednesday Boxing Day

As I said … truly insane.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hubris

After writing my rather smug little blog post yesterday about how easy it is to pick up Bahasa, I noticed that I had received a Facebook message from my local area’s Facebook page.  Glancing at it, I saw the name of my condo – Villa Flora – so I read it more closely.

Now, I know that ‘bomba’ is fire brigade – so what exactly was the problem that required a fire engine?  Obviously something to do with a pipe … leaking pipe?  … broken pipe?  And why all the exclamation marks – was it a flood of truly Biblical proportions, or just a drama queen getting hysterical about a trickle on the floor?

As I live in the high rise, I thought that I should find out what ‘ada ular masuk’ means, although living on the fifteenth floor, I’m unlikely to get washed away someone’s leaky plumbing.

Since my newfound bilinguality seemed to have let me down, I had to resort to Google Translate –

I’m clearly not quite as fluent as I thought I was – and if I’d been bitten by the snake, then serve me right for showing off.

But, on the plus side, I have learnt a very useful new word, and if I hear anyone shouting ‘ular! ular!’ in the future, I shall turn around and sprint in the opposite direction.

 

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Only people with an IQ of 120+ will score 100% in this quiz

Well, after nearly 8 months in Malaysia, my Bahasa is coming on a treat – and without a single lesson, I’d like to add.  It seems that we talented linguists simply soak up the language effortlessly.

So when I came across this fiendishly difficult quiz, I simply had to have a go, and of course I scored top marks.

Have a go yourself and see how many of these Bahasa words you can understand:

  1.  Poskod
  2. Telefon
  3. Muzium
  4. Ais krim
  5. lif
  6. Sekolah
  7. biskut
  8. Restoran
  9. Lori
  10. Mesej
  11. Komputer
  12. Kaunter tiket

Don’t be disheartened if you couldn’t understand any of them – just follow the route below to Bahasa excellence:

 

Come and join me, and you too could be practically bilingual in a matter of months.

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Our tea-swilling Royals

I seem to be following the Royals on a tea tour of SE Asia.

First we decided to go to a tea house in Singapore for a traditional pot of tea with all the accompanying rituals –

 

only to find that Her Majesty had already enjoyed a cuppa here several years ago.

Our tea waiter told us that HM was very complimentary about the tea, and she took time to outline all the benefits of tea drinking to the staff.  Teaching grandmothers and sucking eggs came to mind, but on the contrary, he seemed highly delighted to have been told what he presumably already knew, by such an august personage.

The ceremony involved a lot of smelling –

at various stages of the process –

and then lots of pouring into tiny cups –

and it was a very zen and relaxing experience.  But we were careful not to get too relaxed

as the rules of the tea house include ‘no lying around’.  I’m sure HM approved of that rule too, or possibly suggested it in the first place.

Then we drove up through the cloud forest to the tea plantations in the highlands in central Malaysia.  It was a strange sensation to see the clouds swirling about you as you looked out at the tea bushes.

And as it’s a chilly 24 degrees Celsius, the locals all make sure to dress appropriately –

in woolly hats

and furry boots.

And to think that the English are outdoors in shorts and t-shirts as soon as the temperature reaches doubles figures – how would Malaysians cope?

There was tea as far as the eye could see

which made us feel thirsty, so we trotted across to the tea shop – only to find that

William and Kate had already been there and given it the royal seal of approval.

So we had to try some ourselves.

It’s strange to be over 6,000 miles from Devon, but have cream teas available everywhere

Even the buildings look as though they could be somewhere in Surrey

But they do have something that hasn’t yet made it as far as England –

So I had to try some … purely in the interests of research.

I have been assured that these strawberries use specially angled mirrors to check their degree of ripeness, and once they reach the correct shade of red, they wrench themselves off the plant and hurl themselves into the nearest punnet.

A fortune awaits the entrepreneur who decides to introduce this variety into Britain – just think of the labour costs that all those Norfolk farmers will save.

 

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Natural Born Killers

Have gone native and been living in the jungle for a few days.

Directions to find our particular patch of jungle were along the lines of … turn left at the stream –

cross the waterfall –

Then turn right at the fourth passionfruit tree –

and suddenly we’d arrived.

Our hut is just behind the palm tree, and was all made by hand from jungle materials by John, our host, a member of the Orang Asli tribe.

Seeing our potential as a pair of would-be assassins, he offered to teach us how to use a blow pipe with a poisoned dart.

These weapons have been used for hunting by his tribe for centuries, and his grandfather, father and uncle were employed by the British to kill Communists during the Malayan Insurgency.  His uncle was so successful that he received military honours and a title.

The poison is deadly – made from the rubber tree – and the weapon is accurate and silent … the perfect tool for murder.

First John’s son showed us the technique –

and then it was our turn.

Anthony’s naval upbringing hampered his progress at first.  Here he is scanning the horizon for the Spanish Armada –

But he soon got the hang of it –

although his technique did put me in mind of a boa constrictor swallowing a small mammal –

Whereas I looked more like a donkey eating an apple –

but I did manage to hit at least one bullseye on the target, so my technique must have had something going for it … possibly the flared nostrils taking in extra air.

Anthony was very keen to take a blowpipe home, but I had to point out to him that killing communists – or even Brexiteers – with a poisoned dart tends to be frowned on these days.  And while the jungle offers ideal camouflage for wielding a six-foot bamboo stick, the average British High Street doesn’t, so his chances of slipping away unobserved afterwards would be negligible.

But if anyone else fancies pincushioning a few undesirable characters, I can source the pipe and the poisoned darts from my mate, John – just tip me the wink.

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Singapore Zoo

To be honest, I thought this tiger looked a bit faded … possibly due to all the hot tropical sun, I mused – 

– turns out it’s an incredibly rare white tiger … shows how much I know about nature.

Was very taken with these furry little chaps

Particularly when they walked off with their tails swaying in unison, like the inspiration for the original zebra crossing –

Baboon mother at the grooming salon keeps a firm grasp on her baby’s tail to stop him from wandering off while she has her fleas removed –

– I wasn’t surprised to learn that they share 98% of their genes with us.

As a Harry Potter fan, was delighted to see a real-life basilisk

and to learn that they are familiarly know as The Jesus Christ lizard, because of their ability to walk on water –

Caught an interesting conversation in the aviary:

‘I am looking hot this evening, though I say so myself.’

‘Hello, darlin’ – do you come here often?’

‘No.  I’m not that sort of girl.  It’s my first time actually.’

‘Do you fancy a snog?’

‘Well, ok … but no tongues.’

Slurp slurp …

‘I said – no tongues.  Clear off, you creep!’

‘Bloody women!’

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