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Showing posts from February, 2008

The Black Man

I've been working with my form 1 students to design their own super heroes. It originally was just an exercise to use the present tense (it's really easy to find something that uses the present tense). I asked the students to write down their daily routine, and then to tell me the routine of their superhero alter-ego.

As you can imagine, praying came up a lot. And interestingly enough, one of my students created his hero, Super Pious Man. It is worth noting that SPM and the student who made him \do pretty much the same things everyday, with the exception that SPM studies the Qu'ran once more, and also plays badminton. Badminton might just be the most pious sport, which came as news to me.

Another student filled this out:

Secret Identity: My sister
That's sweet, I thought. This girl thinks her sister is like a super hero. I read on:
Super powers: My brother

She also might've been unclear on the exercise.

Lastly there was a boy who under enemies listed:
The Black Man.

I…

Do You Hate Islam?

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Guy I just met: Are you Christian or Muslim?
Me: Free.
Guy: Free-thinker. Do you hate Islam?

I motion around to the rest of the teachers and say that all of my friends here are Muslim. Then he sees the copy of the Qur'an that Rhman got for me (after I asked for it). He asks if it's mine, and I say yes, it was a gift. He nods and leaves. The interesting thing isn't how weird this moment was, but how uncommon it is here. This is only the second conversation I've had at school about my religion. Most people just don't care, or have assumed I'm one thing and have no reason to think otherwise.
I am curious, however, about what this man must've thought about me before he asked. Perhaps since I'm white he figured I hated Islam, and since I'm American I'm too ignorant to know that Malaysia's a Muslim country. Maybe he was trying to sympathize with me, like "poor kid. He's spending the next six month surrounded by a religion he hates.&qu…

Sky Juice

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Last Thursday was Sarah's 23rd birthday, hot on the heels of my own, though she just can't seem to overtake me. To celebrate nearly all the ETAs (and later, actually all of the ETAs) descended upon Kuala Terengganu like a bunch of bumbling, culture-shocked locusts. Locusts are an especially apt comparison as my bearded colleague Joe Haley has now contracted his 3rd plague of the trip. He seems to be skipping around a bit, having already hit a version of boil and some kind of insect bites before this weekend's ridiculously-high-fever struck. Malaysia might be taking its anger out on him in order to get us all to leave, but since no one on the trip has any first-born sons (knock on wood) we might be a bit recklessly confident in our ability to withstand anything the country can throw at us.
Turns out the country's been throwing a lot lately, and hitting more often than not. During our time together we had ample time to commiserate about everything we've had to sc…

Malaysian High School Musical

Jackie shared a successful lesson plan with the rest of the ETAs that I thought I'd try out. Play the students a song from High School Musical and give them a worksheet of the lyrics with some deleted words that they had to fill in. I had, um, mixed results at best.

For the first class I had forgotten Murphy's law, which clearly states that I will not be able to play a song from a laptop when I need to. Basically not only did the speakers not plug into the outlet (that's right, Malaysian plugs sometimes need converters to work in their own outlets), but the laptop I rented from the school didn't have any audio drivers on it, so that was a bust too. If you ever want to break your heart a little bit, tell a group of 16 year-old girls to pass back their High School Musical worksheets. On an unrelated note, if you ever want to make someone's day, tell a group of 16 year-old boys to pass back their High School Musical worksheets.

Noticing an opportunity for discussio…

But there might be planted voters

As a follow-up to the phantom voters post, I feel obliged to write about the latest interview by journalist Aniza Damis in the New Sunday Times. When talking about 35-year-old housewife, Sharmila Thuraisingam, who claims to have been registered to vote without her knowledge in a place she never lived, the Election Commission chairman reaffirmed that this was not a phantom voter, but admitted, "At worst, this may be a case of a 'planted voter'," someone registered at the wrong address.
My personal highlight comes when the chairman says "Registration is done through forms. We can't check every form. There are too many. So we base it on trust. We know we were cheated many times. But the number has dropped." And later:

A: The system then may have been manipulated. But don't blame the EC. We based everything on trust.
Q: Is that a smart thing to do?
A: It was, then. That's why we changed it.

Keep this in mind. As long as you base your actions on …

Time Machines? Hoo-yah.

A couple of good things came out of class today:
First, in my effort to amuse myself and get my students to become the most finely tuned English speaking machine ever created, I taught them "Hoo-yah!" as the most acceptable affirmative response. So when I ask them if they understand, I now get a chorus of "hoo-yah!" which is so much cooler than "yes, teacher." I grabbed it from the Military, but forget what it was supposed to be exactly, so that's why they're different. I haven't quite standardized them to shouting it whenever they want to say yes... yet. But give me time. I have 6 months to create the baddest, most disciplined, English classes that the East Coast of Malaysia has ever seen.

For lack of anything better to do, I decided to teach my kids the Grandfather Paradox. I figured that if we just get talking interesting things will happen, so we just needed a conversation starter. And it just so happens that the temporal complications …

Of Mice and Pumpkins

Yesterday on my moto ride back from school I saw a dead monkey in the road. I understand for many of you back in the States, dead road monkeys are no longer a novelty, but for me, it was a unique enough occurrence that I thought it needed mentioning. I didn't realize it was a monkey at first, and I was debating whether or not I should look as I approached. I figured that no matter what it was, it was dead, and since I have very few enemies in this country, that death would most likely bring me very little enjoyment. It actually was a very beautiful monkey. I kind of have a thing for monkeys so they're all great in my eyes, but this one was especially majestic. I think if you had seen my face I would've looked like a kid who walked in on Santa, Mickey Mouse, and Sponge Bob engaged in a suicide pact. Sarah reasoned afterwards that at least that proves there are monkeys in this country. But I was forced to correct her saying that it only proved there used to be monkeys…

No phantom voters

I apologize for the delay in posting. Over the weekend I celebrated my birthday (23!) and the Chinese New Year (4705!) by living it up in Cherating. It was great to get out of Matang, which can be kind of isolating, and our apartment, which can be kind of boring and ant-infested. The latter seems to be fixed now, as we laid down a fair amount of ant killer before taking off for the weekend. The package said "is really a good ant killer," which I found to be endearing, like here was an insectide that just wanted to be liked. Upon return there were no ants, but also no ant bodies, which I found troubling to say the least. I'm hoping they just died back at the nest, but I'm afraid they died on the kitchen floor and were simply eaten by something bigger which has now become immunized against insectide. Actually I was kinda broken up about killing them all... which is not to say I don't always celebrate my birthday by destroying something, it's just usually…

Destroyed in Translation

So this probably wasn't too fair, but following up on the Mitch Hedberg excercise, I was curious to see if the students could translate jokes from Malay to English. In short, they can't. On the plus side, the results still are very funny in a kind of absurdist way. So if the start is funny and the end is funny, maybe they're better translators than I thought.

Some picks of the litter:

"One day, I looked my friend very shy with me. I do not know why she become like this on that day. Finally I know that my friend has diarrhoea."
A good lesson in general. If your friend is inexplicably shy, it's best not to take it personally. I will also dub this condition shy-arrhea.

"Laugh always make me happy but I never make it happy."
Kinda Zen. I like it.

"I like pooh because it face like my younger brother."
Scatological humor is pretty big apparently.

"I like her bcoz she is beautiful, honest, kind, friendly, and admirable. Moreover she is so famous... …

What's up, Ez?

So normally when a respectable teacher enters the room, the class monitor will say in a monotone, "Please stand," which the rest of the students will do, and then, "Good morning, Sir," which the rest of the students will repeat.

Since I am clearly not a respectable teacher and can think of nothing more insulting to be called, my first lesson to my classes was to change this practice.

Now it goes like this:
Class: "What's up, Ez?"
Ez: "Nothing. What's up with you?"
Class: "Nothing."
Ez: "Cool, let's begin."

Also, they normally stand and say, "thank you, sir" when I leave, which, since I'm only 6 or 7 years older than them, is likewise ridiculous. Now they say "Peace out, Ez" and I'm much happier.

Curious to see if humor would translate, I gave one class a list of Mitch Hedberg jokes, which was a massive failure. I also failed to adequately censor the list, so one of the words I did teach them…

Number 1 Girls at Bad Times

It’s kind of impossible to understand interactions in Malaysia without first understanding just how separate the genders are here. Thursday, I finally got a chance to teach a couple of classes as a substitute and it was kind of crazy. For starters, the first half of the desks are always occupied by boys, while the back half is all girls. I had an exercise where the students had to pass dry-erase markers to each other in a kind of relay race. In almost all cases the boys wouldn’t hand the pens to the girls. Instead the boys put the markers down on the girls’ desks, but without making eye contact or even facing the in the same direction. When I gave away a chocolate bar as a prize, a boy and a girl had to split it and they squealed at the prospect. When I tried to talk to one of my female students she jumped in her seat, which is a marked improvement over when they bury their faces in their hands, their desks, or their friends. It’s a strange sight, when the girls cluster togeth…