Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Pig

A while ago, I came across this "poster" someone made and put on social media.

It asserts that self-centered individuals behaving badly are referred to as pigs. Of course, this doesn't come as a surprise, as many people regularly use "pig" in name-calling those who are overweight and lazy, often extending to the unpleasant, mean, hateful etc.

I've always felt that it is a great insult to the pig. They're highly intelligent animals - just as, if not more than, dogs, so much so that they are one of the very few non-human species that understand mirrors and reflection, and can use that knowledge to locate food (click herehere). They likely are capable of complex emotions (here), make great pets to worthy people (here), and are almost always unbearably cute -

In short, I think it is a great insult to the pigs, to call selfish, mean, useless, horrible etc., people "pigs". It is, in fact, an insult to whatever animals anyone decides to call them as. There is a perfectly fitting term for such people - sampah masyarakat - translated, the scums of society. Use that! Stop associating the adorable piggies with despicable humans!

Calling someone a pig should be a term of endearment. Like -

Sweetheart, you are my pig. I want to hold you in my arms and protect you from the big bad hungry wolf! 

Saturday, May 30, 2015


Whenever the issue of class attendance is raised, we hear groans. The students hate it that the university forces them to go for classes. We, the academics, hate it that we have to keep track of each students' presence in our classes. We don't like babysitting. Yes - we've all heard, and agreed with, the reasons: they're old enough to know what's best for them; good attendance does not correlate with achievement (and if it does, there's that correlation does not equal causation); we'd rather not have any who are there begrudgingly, therefore likely disrupting the lecture by idle chatter and other mischief. I'm not a fan of attendance-taking. However, I admit that I am relatively less reluctant than many I know.

Story time.

Where I began my teaching career, missing classes was an "offence" taken very seriously. If a student skipped 3 classes (not necessarily consecutively), a warning letter will be issued and mailed directly to his / her parents. A second warning will be issued if the student missed 3 more. Being absent for 9 classes in a semester without valid reasons will get the student barred from taking the final exam. This effectively means failing the subject. I never cared much about barring the kids - most of them didn't go that far (because of the warning letters sent to their parents, obviously) - but I diligently and gleefully kept track of their attendance (once again, because of the warning letters to their parents, which I get to send!)

It is due to this careful tracking that, once, very early in my teaching career, I noticed that three of the naughtiest boys in class stopped coming for lectures. At first, I was simply counting the days till I could submit their names to the faculty for the preparation of warning letters, but after three whole weeks of absence, I started having a nagging feeling that something more might be up. At the next lecture, I asked if anyone knew them or knew the reason they were not attending classes. One boy, fellow member of the naughty gang, then dropped the bomb - the 3 of them were in a road accident and were severely injured. They were probably not coming back at all for the rest of the semester. Being a young, inexperienced first-timer, I didn't know how to react, nor what to do.

For a good few years, I obsessed over students' consecutive absences. It wouldn't have made a difference whether or not I know the reason for their being missing, but somehow, I could no longer be apathetic. The case of the three boys reminded me of the tragic, heart-breaking, case of my friend and classmate who died in a hit-and-run accident in the middle of a semester, when we were students ourselves. The police contacted the university (they found his student ID on him) and the university contacted his parents. However, oddly enough, the faculty and lecturers were not informed. In the week before the final exams, our lecturer published the coursework marks as was the usual practice. In the columns of the row that was my friend's name, there were, but of course, many zeros... and a note that said "COME AND SEE ME". Nobody wants that.

So, when a fellow colleague told me that a kid from his class hadn't been seen in weeks, I was concerned. He did not respond to our emails and could not be reached via the contact number we had in our records. He was missing for the rest of the trimester and did not show up for his final exams. I spent weeks trying to reach him. Finally, one day, after the new semester had begun, I got him on the phone. He got a good reprimand from me (absolutely a must, don't you think?) I made him promise to meet me to talk about his future, as he is just one subject short of completing his course. He came and in spite of my questioning, had no justification for his disappearing stunt. He could not explain why he didn't read the emails we sent, or why his mobile number couldn't be reached for weeks. He acted as if it didn't matter that he had been stuck more than two years in a one-year course, as if he didn't care that he'd only one subject left to clear. Nevertheless, I advised him on what to do to get out of the pickle he was in, and how to move on. This was about two months ago, and... I never saw nor heard from him again since. I am not surprised.

And I am reminded of why I completely understand academics that are determined to not waste their time tracking their class's attendance.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Hello (Again), World!

1. I am alive!
2. I am very occupied.
3. I am using a sleep-tracking app that is telling me that I have accumulated a 3-plus-hour deficit since Monday, and it's half an hour past my "bedtime".

Sleep tight, World!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


My yoga teacher insists that inversion poses have youth-preserving and brain-enhancing powers. I can't say for sure, but logic dictates that they are very unlikely. If blood rushing to my head really does improve my cognitive abilities, I would have gained several IQ points by now, having been inverting myself into wall-supported handstands nearly every single night.

I don't remember the exact number of years I've been doing yoga - granted, never intensely - but it must be at least 6 or 7. I remember I never managed to go into a headstand away from the assuring protection of a wall for the first 4 years or so. Yoga was not a series of challenging poses to master; it was my weekly physical activity, amounting (almost) to exercise that I fondly hoped would help keep my weight in check (yikes!). I was too comfortable and complacent in the class that was just me and my friend, and never had the motivation to take that leap. It came in form of a reprimand-like observation by a rock-climbing yogi who I met when I first took up climbing. Long story short, he was rather aghast that after 4 years of yoga, I hadn't learned how to do the handstand.

It took a while, a lot of courage and several falls to stand on my head (and elbows) in the middle of the room. The tripod quickly followed. I found that once I figured the key to stabilizing my body while being upside down, everything just works.

Handstands, however, are still a long way off. While I've been able to hold myself in position against the wall for a some time (years, in fact), I haven't been able to grasp the mental and physical key configurations to break away. That is why I hop up against the wall every night. If anything would work, it would be ceaseless, relentless determination.

Yoga is no longer just another physical activity amounting to exercise. It is so much more to me now, although I'm not (yet) at the level where I take an interest in the philosophical and spiritual aspects. Conquering the handstand is my current goal. Next, perhaps the Scorpion.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Kota Kinabalu

I returned from the capital of Sabah, Land Beneath the Wind, two weeks ago. It's taken me long enough to write a few words. A few. There should be more to come, I hope.

While it is, one one hand, disadvantageous to travel alone - safety concerns and no one to share yummy seafood dinners / taxi fares / hearty laughter / silly vacation photography with - it is, on the other hand, very liberating. I wasn't obliged to plan perfectly my limited days there, or ensure I see all the must-sees, do all the must-dos and eat all the must-eats, or compromise on anything at all.

Oh, it was great. Any vacation, after years being without, is definitely great.

Sunday, September 21, 2014


I took up belly dancing about three years ago. It wasn't something I sought specifically... rather, there was a class on Saturday afternoons in my gym, and I thought - why not? It looked interesting and potentially effective in ridding me of a flabby belly, and the instructor was (still is) great-looking. 

Dancing was never my thing - not when I was young, nor in my teens not even the twenties. Once, in university, the singing group my roomee, Mee Mee, and I were in were set to perform two songs for a charity event. In the (relatively) last minute, they decided to throw in a dance as well. After the first rehearsal (in which we learned the steps for the first time), Mee Mee and I "showcased" our moves to Bee Ree in our hostel room. Bee Ree rolled onto her bed and laughed like a hyena - that's how much we can't dance. This belly dance class, however, was different. It wasn't only that I could do it, but I didn't make people fall over laughing doing it.

It was really great to find something I enjoy doing and have it do wonder to my fitness at the same time. And then... the moment I realized how great the once-a-week belly dancing classes were, I started worrying about the day when I don't have them anymore. My instructor was no longer a young man - one day, he would decide he has had enough and would retire. What will happen to my abs then? What will I do to maintain my fitness? How will I fill the gap that was a full hour of cardio and body-toning workout every Saturday?

Well, that day has come. The classes ceased two months ago. 

What do I feel, you ask? Frankly, nothing. The reason is that I had actually stopped going for classes about 6 or 8 months ago. It started with an unexplained pain in one knee, and then a pain in the other knee. I simply couldn't dance anymore. I had, without consciously realizing it, long replaced belly dancing with Swiss ball exercises for core training. Do I miss dancing? Yes, but not for the reasons I initially thought I would.

This, Reader, is what I always do. I over-think everything and I worry about future changes that might happen before they even happen, if they do at all. I worry about how the changes might affect me negatively and I am always in fear of losing something good that is currently a part of my life. I know the saying that nothing is permanent, that change is the only constant... but, knowing (and even accepting) it is not the same as being OK with it. 

In hindsight, all that worrying was simply as waste of time. I affected a change before circumstances did. I wish I can say this would be the last time I do it, but... well, one can try. And hope.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


I started this post at least two or three months ago, but never got around to finish it. Somehow, now seems an apt time.

A close friend asked if I was prescribed anti-depressants for my tummy problems last year. I wasn't. I don't think I had written about what happened with me exactly. Here it is.

I had been unhappy for what may be a prolonged period. I had been stressed out by things I did not (and perhaps, still do not) consciously acknowledge, or hadn't been aware of. I know not when these unresolved issues, piling and compounding on each other, as issues are wont to do, crossed the limit of my tolerance. They did, and consequently, the tummy problems began.

My gastroenterologist diagnosed functional dyspepsia and prescribed me anti-anxiety meds. I took them for a couple of weeks to no distinguishable relief from symptoms. He upped the dose and I still didn't get better. Finally, he ordered an upper gastrointestinal endoscopy. Nothing. I continued on the anti-anxiety meds for another month or so, while making it a point to be fine with everything. I strive not to sweat the small stuff, not even the somewhat bigger ones. I made an effort to stop over-thinking too many things and learned to let go. I got better, and haven't been in serious pain for over a year now.

So, no, I told my friend. It wasn't depression, which, perhaps laughably, I experienced before too. It was the time I cried myself to sleep every night, lost the will to live, and lost enough weight to look like a ghost. Granted, I hadn't needed medical attention (or maybe I did, but... oh, well) and I dragged myself out of the crazy, all-encompassing gloom after several months. It wasn't easy, and it was scary.

It was scary because I entertained thoughts - several times - of ending it all. All I could see was circumstances hopeless and repellent - there wasn't a single thing I could imagine doing that would lead me down a path I would enjoy, or at the end of which I could see a light, or even affect in the slightest manner anyone in my life. No one cared, and I didn't care. It would be when I was performing mundane daily tasks - driving, showering - when panic would attack. I'd feel a tightness in my chest and maddening lightness in my head. I'd have to physically scream at myself, sometimes including pulling at my own hair or slapping my own cheeks, to snap out of it.

If you know me, Reader - if you are a friend, I imagine you might be rather taken aback right now. Is this true, what you are reading? Isn't she a very happy, funny, and most of all, tough, girl? How can she be this messed up inside?

The truth is, sometimes, the most messed up people put up the best facade to hide their true feelings. I am fortunate that I wasn't that ill, so that I was able to find my way out of the black holes on my own. What about those who aren't? They kill themselves.

I don't know why we should insist on saving those who want to die - in the end, we all have to die anyway. The reason I would guess, is that perhaps many just couldn't, at the worst time in their lives, see that they really want to live, and they can, if only they get past the darkness. And the darkness, eventually, definitely will pass.