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Does learning the minority language matter?

The other day, I was talking to my colleagues about teaching our languages to our kids. One is British born Asian, who speaks Hindi with her parents and her husband speaks Punjabi growing up. One learnt Cantonese as a child. His wife is English and aside from his mum, he doesnt really speak Cantonese much. Then there is me – I speak Malay with my parents and older generation in my family. I speak a combo of Malay and English (Manglish?) with my siblings, younger gen of family and friends. As for daily life, my kids are only exposed to Malay with me. Like my colleagues – we are essentially the sole speaker of our language to our kids.

Fair to say, they were where I was last year. I always thought the language would just permeate into their lives like osmosis. I’ll just keep talking in malay (though reality is that it was 80% english and 20% malay) and they will just get it.

Except they didnt!

There was also the thought of he’ll get it one day, when we go to Brunei. Except I can see that as they get older, the need for the language dissipates and their comfort in English grows.

Would it matter anyway for him to speak Cantonese? We’re going to stay in the UK and its only his grandma who speaks Cantonese. My colleague muses.

I guess, for someone who is multiracial, only they can answer if being multilingual benefits them. Will it fill a gap in their cultural identity? Or will it not matter because you wouldnt know what you’re missing if you havent had it? Certainly knowing an extra language is always useful (also fun when you can use it as code speak). But does it matter? Will we only know decades down the line whether it is a regret not to teach the language? (I dont think anyone who is bi- or multi-lingual ever said they regretted learning another language)

In my kids case, I want them to speak the language so they can communicate with their grandparents (my parents) better.

We’re far from the goals I’ve created for them (to speak and write like a native of their peers and have a flowing conversation with grandparents) but I can’t give up.

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Books inventory: February & March

February and March have been really slow in terms of reading. I realise now that I’ve partially abandoned the things that makes me happy. I’ve stopped running, doing yoga and only managed to read two books (and a half).

So February and March read includes:

1. It’s All in Your Head

I would thoroughly recommend this book to medics out there. It made me rethink how I perceive those with medically unexplained symptoms. In paeds, I would see girls (it almost always are girls) coming in with suddenly unable to walk or ‘pseudoseizures’. There are also plenty of symptoms that we couldnt find a cause to – chronic abdominal pain or headache or lethargy. We do various tests and even when we’ve done it all and it came back negative, parents want more. There must be something wrong. For medicolegal reasons and also often to appease parents, we carry on investigating. Some of the more experienced, old school consultants will be more firm, enough is enough. There is no organic cause to the symptoms. I get it, the symptoms are distressing, your child is not your child anymore. How do we communicate better though? Without judgement, inwardly eye rolling and to give the same compassion and respect to all patients. Sure, they might seem dramatic but they’re experiencing the pain right? Pain is pain, whether we think it is real or not. One thing I’ve learnt from this book is once we have made peace that we’ve done all the investigations and found no cause to it, we need to communicate well to patients and parents quickly on how to go forwards. It also means truly acknowledging that to them, these symptoms are real. They do feel the pain. They do feel tired. Just because there’s no real medical cause to it, it doesnt mean they dont feel it.

The author has summarised that the more delayed we confirm to patients of it being functional or psychological, the more we medicalize, the more difficult it would be to treat it. The author recommends involving psychiatrist or psychologist early on. Due to the long waiting list of CAMHS and clinical psychologists, perhaps this is  not a bad idea after all.

If illness seems to be helping solve the problem of loneliness, then treat the loneliness and the illness will disappear. Or find out where the gain lies and address that. Or if the problem lies in maladaptive responses to the messages the body sends, that can be relearned.

Picture of book

When we encounter somebody who is severely disabled with purely medically unexplained symptoms we should treat that person with the same respect that we would give to anybody else with any other diagnosis.

2. The Nakano Thrift Shop

Bought this before we boarded flight to Japan. Terminal 2 Heathrow is so nice btw.

Anyway, it starts out slow and the flow of the book is halting. I think it’s supposed to be in Japanese and then translated to English, maybe thats why it has the halting flow of speech. Language is also bit formal, but maybe its just how Japanese people speak? I wouldnt know I guess unless I really learn Japanese.

The story line turned out to be interesting and you grow to adore each main characters. The ending though made me feel like “Huh?? That’s it ??!!” You know … when there is a happy ending but not quite an ending, you kinda just have to imagine what happened next. Boring! This time, I want a hollywood ending please.

3. We are all completely beside ourselves

This is a bit of weird one.  Just couldnt relate to it but totally didnt expect the story to pan out like how it did. Haven’t finished it … Incouldnt quite bring myself to finish it. Kinda forcing myself to keep reading.

Shall I just carry on reading even if it doesnt bring me happiness? Perhaps I will learn something new or at least know how the story ends? Or do I say C’est la vie, life is too short to read books I dont like?

I hate not finishing a book though.

Books to read:

  • The Night Circus
  • Good Immigrant

Over and out,

Hopefully more books in April!

Total books read in 2018 so far = 9

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Japan: Food for the tummy and prayers for the soul

Places to eat

I’m not good at food reviews but bear with me. As per last Tokyo post, this is not in chronological order or ‘most favourite’ order.

1. Shinjuku Gyon Ramen ouka

The good bits: Halal, punchy with flavour, yummy food. M got the wagyu ramen which cost a bomb but was well yummy.

The downside: Pricey and long waiting time. We waited about half hour which to Zayan’s hangry mood is super long time. He did finish everything on his place – the humongous chicken pop stick, ramen noodles, rice, miso soup, boiled egg and even the broccoli and corn. So it must have been worth it.

Also word of warning: there are levels of spiciness. We chose 4 and was SO spicy (she said malaysians usually chose 3, I dont know why we chose above it especially me yang inda tahan panas!). It was burning sampai inda tahan makan – yet we went for more – that I asked to change to non spicy broth. Even M who can taha spicy food found it too much. So next time just choose level less than 3.

2. Hanasakaji-san

The good bits: Fairly quick service. Nice ambience. Ok if you want to try halal shabu shabu style, but guessing it’s standard ‘nyaman’.

The downside: The broth was not as flavoursome as I would like – read: tawar sikit. We finished all the food though HAAA.

3. Asakusa sushi-ken

The good bits: Halal, so can eat the meat yesss. Good sushi. Like mouth watering good sushi. And the meat meal I had – so tender I want to cry (lots of things in Japan that made me want to cry though). Clean and fairly quick service. Even have prayer room above it.

The downside: No downside.

4. Food court at a mall near Ueno Park

The goodside: Standard pasta (tomato and broccoli) and marinara pizza. Cheap.

Downside: Just standard food.

Note: Carry around with you bottled water or buy from 7-11 or family mart. Way cheaper than buying from these food courts.

5. Restaurant at Hakone Onsen

Sat on the floor, so mesti buka kasut. I quite approve this Japanese obsession of taking off shoes. #cleanfloors

Different menu to the usual japanese food. More traditional. Tried yam puree (ech), fish cake and diced tuna (sashimi, you can never go wrong with sashimi).

Kids ate the soba noodles and caned it. Mumtathil had the grilled unagi rice set.

Good bits: Cheaper than most of our meals so far. Noodles and rice were good.

Downside: The fish cake tasted like crabsticks with similar texture – this is not cake! Not a fan of some of the side dishes but at least I can say I’ve gone out of my comfort zone.

6. Tempura Tenfusa, Tsukiji Fish Market

So crispy! Best breakfast/brunch ever.

Zayan being patient and thinking why he has to wait everytime before he can start eating.

Five star reviews for the food!!

Everyone (on tripadvisor and travel blogs) was saying to eat the fresh sushi there but some recommended avoiding the long queue and trying less-sought after establishments. Came across Tempura Tenfusa on tripadvisor and can now join the throngs of good reviews there. There are only 12 seats so we had to wait around 15-20 minutes. There’s only three things in the menu (all seafood) but the two that we tried were so good. Crispy light batter, not greasy at all. Kampung hawker style seating (but inside). Was so good though, we were the only foreigners there so it must be good. And there was never an empty seat and constant people queuing outside.

Downside: Some waiting time but not that long.

7. Fresh sushi and sashimi in Tsukiji Fish Market

Take away saja, cheap sushi. So fresh and tender I want to cry.

8. Gyumon bbq beef

This was fun and the dipping sauce was yummy. Zayan wanted to eat all the meat/chicken. Slightly pricy but maybe because it’s halal meat? Was well worth it though.

9. Couldnt catch the name of this Kyoto resurant because it was all in Japanese.

Not halal so went for the seafood option. For me – Sashimi with rice and along with it the biggest, juciest salmonroe.

Ok I’m bored now. Here’s the list of halal places we also came across:

– Halal Restaurant in Arashiyama – cant remember name but they have kids set too. And there was a lot in kids set! Potato wedges, rice, noodles, fried chix.

– Osaka Ramen – slightly salty ramen but the kids ate chicken rice which was nice.

– Kenny Asia in Osaka – after a week or so of Japanese food, it was heaven sent to see a malaysian restaurant. Its like OMG I MISS YOU SAMBAL AND KARI! I coughed with the spiciness of ikan asam kari but maybe it was because I have gotten used to the more soy and miso based dishes in Japan.

Places to pray

Surpisingly not that difficult to find in Japan. Or maybe Allah made it easy for those who tries to find a way to pray. Anyway there is a place to pray in all the major tourist places, here are the areas in case you are near them (when you have kids, you dont want to walk more/backtrack).

1. Noa Dougenzuka, Shibuya – This looks like an apartment complex and there is a room rented out at 11th floor that has been modified to be a prayer room.

2. Prayer room above the Asakusa sushi ken. Asked the waiter if there is prayer area but he said no (not sure if he really understood). When we went to the toilets upstairs, I saw a guy who looked like he just ambil wudhu and looked Malaysian. Spoke in malay and he showed me the prayer room close to the toilets.

3. Prayer room in Takashimaya Times square complex, Shinjuku

This looked like a posh shopping complex and the room is SO nice. Like I just wanna sit there all day. Plus you can stalk for hours at the food hall at basement.

4. Tokyo Station prayer room

5. Osaka Station prayer room

6. Prayer room in OIOI shopping complex, Kyoto 

Just some more food pics…

Their strawberries are expensive but oh so sweet!

Krispy Kreme

From L-R: Cookies and cream, One with cream cheese filling and the kawaii one with melon filling

Do buy a cute lunch box and make your own meal. Here is the ready made noodle (plain) with some soy dipping sauce. Go to the abundant small supermarket to get such things – its all in Japenese though. So we just had to choose the most plain looking (nada inti inti) one.

Also go to the bigger shopping complex – a lot of the big train/metro stations have a shopping complex attached to it. We came across Daimaru and Toby – Daimaru’s basement have the most mouth watering desserts and bakery. Usually cheaper than the more upmarket cafes.

Breakfast for us consists of food from bakery or buying bakery from the FoodMart (small supermarket). They’re not into brunches/eggs and toast very much here!

Ok thats it from me. Enjoy the pics x

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Pregnant people needs to hustle?

If a pregnant woman asks for leave due to sickness, is she weak?

I find a certain article writing on having pregnancy symptoms and how she used to think these women are weak. I thought she might have changed her thoughts and was motivating. I was approving the article until….  

Don’t be the reason why people don’t like to employ women and don’t be the reason why people say pregnant women are weak. There are so many women in our past who did it all – hustled their way through, pregnant and all. They ain’t got no time for morning sickness. Let’s follow in their footsteps and uphold the good name of strong-willed women. – Vivy Yusof

I am all for women trying to do their best during pregnancy. But yknow what, with each pregnancy, only you know your limitations and sometimes you may not even know it!! Some women may ‘hustle’ their way only to realise it is not good for their pregnant bodies. I did full oncalls which was non stop, on the feet job and started having spotting in my first trimester. That freaked me out and the midwives I was working with even told me that I had to take it easy (which is difficult anyway but I was more militant in taking breaks and knowing that I HAVE to be slower and ask for help). 

Indeed I have ‘hustled’ my way through both my pregnancies, which Alhamdulillah was easy. I didnt have much symptoms at all except for back pain towards the end of the pregnancy. I did my night shifts until I was 32 weeks with Zayan, which I realise later on was so so exhausting… not to mention I did a one hour commute to hospital during that time (no driver ah, I dont have those luxuries). However I wouldnt expect others to be like me. I know of colleagues who are so nauseous and kept vomiting even after first trimester. Carrying a bottle of water and dried fruits and nuts during an oncall because that’s all she could take. 

Having understanding colleagues and bosses make a difference. I have had times when my colleagues took the bleep from me because they were kind enough to realise my 25 week pregnant self cant be running up and down the stairs all the time (when crash called, you run up 2-3 flights of stairs). I have also had to carry the bleep when I was 34 weeks because there was no one else to take it and told to ‘just run slowly, its not that far anyway’ (to be fair, it wasnt that far and I never had to run). 

Each of us are different – we can only try to do our best. 

What I think is needed is for society to realise that if they want to retain women workers (which have their own qualities, compared to men), they need to accept that pregnancy and motherhood can come with it. I will not continue to be a happy, striving doctor mom if I didnt have the benefits UK work force has to offer (comparatively much better compared to Asian countries). I had 6 months full paid maternity leave, did less than full time for a year after Zayan was born (worked 60% of usual hours) and can cut down on oncalls and night shifts when I was pregnant. 

Now there are debates about women and men being equal. I say that we are not equal – men can never be pregnant and will never know how pregnancy and breastfeeding is. Heck, a woman with easy pregnancy wouldnt even know how it feels if you have a hard one. What we can do is to ensure that there is equity. It’s neither easy nor straightforward but we have to start thinking of these policies that provides fairness to all workers, pregnancy, disability and all. 
Love, me

PS I am a secret fan of Vivy and love following her. I just find her paragraph at the end disappointing. Perhaps she meant well and if worded differently, it would give the meaning she wanted it to be (motivating I’m guessing). I wish her pregnancy all the best. 

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Tokyo: Places to go

I have always wanted to blog on my travels and then keep forgetting to do it. I havent even finished writing on Jordan (that was 2 years ago!). And have I even written about Marrakech (December 2017)?

Anyway, so I think I should write differently because writing in chronological order was taking way too long – even though that made the most sense to me. I’ll just write my recommendations and top tips… and ‘meh’ experiences.

Places to go in Tokyo

First up: How can anyone fit in Tokyo with TWO kids in 4 days? Actually, it was more like three days for us as we went on a day trip out to Hakone.

So choose what your preferences are and be aware that there will be lots and lots of walking. Even walking inside a station itself takes 10-15 minutes – basar nyamu stations nya ani. 

Limit to 2-3 areas per day. In fact for maximal enjoyment, make it to 2 places and then somewhere else for dinner/night time. 

1. Samurai museum at Shinjuku

This was a good museum actually, interesting history of the Samurais. It’s not that big and takes about an hour ish. We took the guided tour and the collections made more sense with the guide’s explanation. The kids’ attention span did deteriorate by the end of it and we ended up taking photos with the nearby maekshift studio.

Fun fact: Boys who came from the samurai family were trained from the age of 3-4 years old. Hmm, need to get started on the kids. Also, girls were trained to be samurais too. Especially if they didnt have any boys in the samurai family, so the girls have to be the ‘assistant’ to the fighter… but also means they are involved in the fighting. 

Takashimaya Square, Shinjuku

We went here on our last day. There are a lot of shopping malls here, a lot of it is American/Western top end brands. We went here to go to the prayer room actually before going to nearby park. We ended up spending almost 2 hours at Tokyu Hands! It has six floors and is a bit like a department store but mostly specialises on cute/pretty/quirky items. I can spend a long long time there but had to keep an eye on the clock. Wished I bought some more things there now. 

Bought this cute lunchbox. 

2. Went shopping at Shibuya

So if you’re really into shopping, you can spend a few hours here. We went to Shibuya 109 which had some ridiculous number of floors (8 floors I think) of women’s clothing. However we had a lump to carry around (sleeping Ayman) and boys hate going shopping. So I quickly zoomed around but really I can spend ages there. We went to Uniqlo and I got my trousers fix (I have 5 trousers that I usually wear and 4 of them are from Uniqlo). By then we all got tired and cranky and we just couldnt wait for the evening’s sight of Shibuya crossing. 

3. Harajuku

I expected teenagers in wild outfits and though I did see some ‘less conservative’ outfits, I was didappointed that the Harajuku crowd didnt appear in full force when we went. We actually went to Harajuku twice. The first was to check out the place – as soon as you come out of the station and cross the street, there is a street that is so full of people. We exited after a few minutes and the second time round (to kill time), we browsed around with less of a crowd in the evening. There were some interesting fashion  shops but not my style really. Although tempted to buy the sweatshirt with the bunny hoodie and a lil bob tail to go with it, I held back and decided I couldnt get away with it. 

Hedeghog cafe, Harajuku

The first time, we went to the Hedgehog cafe. There was a bit of a queue (as are a lot of places in Japan it seems!) but didnt have to wait more than 10-15 minutes. It did cost a lot to my stingy disbelief but we were there already, so off we went for some hedgehog experience. Now let me tell you, I hate touching any four legged animals. Actually I hate touching any animals but even more so four legged ones. Gali rasanya and also I have a bit of phobia (I say a bit but its a lot actually). That was the reason why we didnt go to cat cafe. I’ll probably cry in a corner and hyperventilate at the same time. 

So hedgehog seems to be a safer bet… they’re not gonna run around me at least. However, Zayan was also scared of touching so I had to be brave and fight all my senses to throw the hedgehog away. After awhile, I realise it wasnt so bad. #achievementunlocked

PS There is cat cafe in Harajuku and Owl cafe as well in Asakusa. If you know, you’re into those things.

PPS You get a free drink from vending machine but its not really a cafe! The place do have a nice ambience to it.

Yoyogi Park, Shibuya-ku

Actually the maps said this was in Shibuya-ku but we went out of station to find ourselves at Harajuku close to Hedgehog cafe. Hmm. Anyway. HUGE HUGE park. We didnt get to see any greenery area, came across another shrine/temple (sorry ah cant tell which is which at this point) and then the park was closing. So erm, no place for our picnic! There probably is but we couldnt find it despite half an hour of walking. It is pretty cool to have this forest-like park in the middle of city and be completely surrounded by nature, only minutes after escaping the hustle and bustle of the city. However, there are nicer parks to go to IMHO – says the sakura obsessed.
4. Asakusa

I enjoyed this place the most. It was more authentic and even though still jam-packed with tourists, it had a nice feel to it. We went to the Meiji Shrine, checked out the little alleyway shops and found this shop selling really pretty Japanese cloths. Pictures later perhaps on IG because I cant be bothered to find them now. Kids got restless at the shrine and was finally happy when we got them icecream.

5. Ueno Park

Another HUGE park. Lovely area for cherry blossom sightings. Lots of people picnicking – seriously jam packed with rows of people having a picnic under the Sakura tree. 

We went to Ueno Zoo, which the kids love. When you have kids, you will end up going to multipe zoos and aquariums. So this zoo is not the most amazing zoo in the world but it did it make up to the kids, for all those walking and boring shrine-picture taking they have to endure. Plenty of space to run around in and  also the animals didnt look sad (I feel sad for the animals who looks trapped or sad or live in small areas). The tiger did look like it needs some fattening up though. 

Ended the area with street food stalking (grilled squid for M – which he didnt share!, banana dipped in chocolate for Zayan and crepes for me and Ayman). 

And oh some more walking pathways lined with cherry blossom trees. #sopretty

6. Tsukiji Fish Market

Tempura Tenfusa

We didnt go early to see the tuna auction. Or THAT early to get breakfast. We arrived at 10 am and bee-lined to this tempura place. Read through the tripadvisor forums who advised to ditch the sushi places and instead go for the less busy places. Actually this popular sushi place (Sushi Dai – I did my research) didnt have a queue when we arrived but within 10 minutes, the queue did pile up. Anyway, we went to Tempura Tenfusa, which only have 12 seats! So we had to wait probably for 15-20 minutes. It only has 3 items in the menu and one (tuna sashimi) was sold out by 10 am. They only have seafood in it. Nevertheless the tempura was SO good. Crispy batter, not greasy at all, that was a real yums breakfast/brunch. 

The actual fish market

Because we got there a bit late, there was less of a crowd but still plenty to see. Zayan eyed the fresh sushi and sashimi and pestered to eat it. And now that he can read, he saw the sign saying ‘You can buy here and eat at the third floor’ and kept going on about it! Eseh aku ah, actually nya mau jua. The sashimi was SO fresh. It was so fresh and tender I just want to cry (eh labih jua). 

There were also food stalls at the outer fish market but we got so full it was time to ciao.

7. Odaiba

Now this is probably one of the nicer, posher places to go to. Quite a few shopping areas and science museum, so actually worth going if you’re into those things. 

We went only for this thing only…

The kids went CRAZY. I would go crazy too if I was six and into Gundam and the likes. 

It also had a nice picnic area, so it was pretty nice to just chillax and not have crowds and crowds of people invading your space (can you tell I like my space?). 

Look my pink uniqlo seluar!

8. Chiyoda 

My sakura obsession continues as we went sakura sighting at night. It was so so so pretty. The kids though… kept hitting each other, went hyper (hmm it was either the fanta or the sweet bread we fed them). Sikit lagi hilang mood, baik jua teluan lawa nada mood kan marah banar. 

Can you spot the moon in the last picture below? (Hey its a full moon, maybe thats why they went all cray).

Ok that’s all from me. Next post: foor for the tummy, prayers for the soul.


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Update on Projek Bahasa Melayu

Ok I’ve been meaning to update on Zayan’s (and Ayman’s) progress on learning bahasa melayu. Apparently, by reflecting and writing on it, it will make me conscious of how the learning is going and motivate me to continue.

I have been pushing the learning from a lot of corners:

(1) Talking more in malay

Sometimes it’s just reflex to speak in English with the kids esp Zayan. Sometimes I have to speak in English esp with complex ‘you need to understand this’ instructions.

If it’s simple instructions, I can speak in malay and the kids will understand. If it’s more complex, I either will say it in malay and then say it in English.

A lot of times I do the combo of the two languages, which is how I naturally talk with family (excluding parents and older generatiom) and friends anyway.

With Ayman, I talk much much more in Malay. He understands a lot more and doesntt even bat an eyelid if he doesnt get it. He just goes ‘hmm?’ whereas Zayan will get frustrated if he doesnt get it.

Ayman also picks up more malay words and it sticks on him more. So from a vocabulary point of view, Ayman has more malay vocab than Zayan. This is probably because I’ve stuck to talking more in malay with him since he was a wee little one.

Just realising I need to talk more with them made me do more things with them. I know it sounds horrible but often I just want to sit and do nothing/watch TV and let kid get on with their play. Now I do things more WITH them so I can speak more with them.

(2)  Writing 

I wanted to keep up a more consistent daily routine of some form of malay work. Unfortunately, mornings are not good for us, so Zayan does ‘malay work’ in the evening after I come home from work. This depends on me being there, so perhaps this is done 2/3 of the time in a month. 

It started really, really basic because thats how low the standards/reality were! Name, age, shapes, colours, labelling rooms and items in the house, simple adjectives. I have an A4 book solely for this. 

For example, he would be matching colours and shapes to the malay words. He likes to draw so I made him draw different rooms in a house and then label them. 

I divided the work into: (1) writing sentences, (2) reading and comprehension and (3) learning new vocabulary. We might concentrate on one area or do all three! Btw the time span for this work is usually half an hr. Any more and he gets distracted. 

Below are examples of what he’s done:

I also have a little ‘journal’ writing for him. Essentially a little booklet where he writes 1-2 sentences on it. Sometimes I wouldnt even know the malay words for it (like ‘snake scales’ and ‘slide’) but he made me check it on the dictionary. 

Then I had to ‘up’ it because he was getting bored. I was finding it difficult to find ‘malay worksheets’ online. Most of the work is a bit boring, so in the end I made it up myself. 

Exercise: Translating english to malay

Exercise: Matching new words to pictures to then translate the recipe

‘Telur’ missing pasal Ayman took it out. For the vocabulary lessons, I do it with both kids. Ayman remembered it much quicker – I think he’s like his Ayah, quicker acquisition of language. Zayan is like me – he just needs to work harder and he’ll get it. The ‘working hard’ bit is what is hard. I mean, I can make it fun by drawing and colouring and making things relevant/funny/interesting for him. Essentially though, he has to learn some areas (writing and reading) by sitting down and focusing and that is the struggle. 

(3) Reading 

This is a struggle because I have little hold of fun and interesting malay books. I bought some dari Brunei from the last trip but sad to say, it wasnt that interesting. 

Zimah, my soul sister from another mother, kindly bought books for the kids. It has nice graphics and malay is not too difficult (good combo of short enough sentences but some difficult words). Thank you Zimah!!

I also got my parents to get me old Mekar magazines. I used to read this when I was a kid!! The contents are not that bad actually and have word puzzles/crossword there that I use as part of ‘Daily Malay work’. 

Aside from the above, I have downloaded this app which I cannot recommend enough. Seems like it has been set up by ‘Pusat Bahasa Melayu Singapura’. There is six stories with different options – you can just read it like an e-book, have it as audiobook or you can voice record yourself (or your kid can) reading it. It also has games at the end – one is a comprehension game (qs to ask on whether you understand the story) and another is some vocabulary game. 

I thought Zayan would get bored of it but he continues to ask to play it from time to time.

So on reflection, things going well and the issues:

(1) Malay work is done more regularly than ever before. I wish I can do it daily but depends on whether I’m oncall or not. My oncalls are on average 10 days a month and maybe 2-3 days post oncall (therefore still zombie), that makes it roughly about 2/3 of the month only. 

I’m still searching on things Zayan can do by himself when I am oncall and need little supervision. Anyway, will have a think. 

(2) Reading more

Currently we love this Sea world books from Zimah! And still sifting through Mekar magazines. 

But have to foresee them getting bored after awhile, so need to buy new ones. Hint, hint to my friends from Brunei &Malaysia! (I will gladly pay for books and postage!!)

(3) The ‘One page a day’ exercise

As I didnt have any fun books for awhile, I figured I’ll make some stories up. This story is about Zayan and Ayman waking up one morning to an empty house and found their neighbourhood has turned into a forest. I introduce a page a day (not consecutively because Zayan gets bored, but not too far apart either for Zayan to forget about it) and have Zayan read it.

Zayan can actually read these passages and understand half of what’s written. Or maybe he gets the gist of it by picking up on words he knows. 

I give extra exercises to go with it too sometimes, because I’m Tiger Mama like that. Once I made him draw pictures to accompany the story line. Today I made him translate and write some of the words in English. 

Anyway, five minutes later, he forgot what is ‘pokok’, ‘bunga’ and ‘hutan’. Btw I always point out pokok and bunga for him when bejalan. Breathe Fizah Breathe. It reminded me of his ‘learning to read’ saga, where I am constantly stressed out getting him to get it. Now I’m not so stressed and figure he will just get it one day! I just need to keep saying it. 

Now…  I just realise that he is reading, writing and learning more new words. He’s still not talking malay as much! (He talks in malay only when he wants something) It makes sense because he doesnt need to. There is no one else he talks malay to and I’ll reply him anyway even if he talks in English. Hmm, ok something to work on! 

Ayman on the other hand is talking more malay words. He will say (when I’m heating up his milk) “I dont want panas, I want suam”. Or “I am yaki yaki, mama bini bini”. 

I should do more malay work with Ayman (flash cards at least) and work on him talking in sentences in malay. 

How do I have time to do these worksheets and stories, you may ask? I do new ‘work’ every 2 weeks or so. I spend maybe an hour compiling it all and then take it out one at a time. 

This is one of those ‘I just have to make time for it’. I now realise I have to. I have to start being serious in teaching him because seriously, his malay was akin to a 2 year old. If I leave it any longer (like when balik brunei), he will have so much to catch up on. Kids his age in Brunei will not only acquire it via their surroundings (family, at the shops, TV, radio etc) but also at school. He has only me as a source, so half an hour a day of ‘proper work’ and on a weekday, perhaps 2-3 hours of language exposure with me is really not enough (if I’m not oncall). 

Has it made any progress? I can certainly see in Ayman. With Zayan, it’s hard to say.

There are moments when I realise he does understand more than I think but I have to talk slower and get him in the right mood. If tired/distracted, he just wouldnt focus on what I’m talking about.

Ok that’s it for today. Any ideas or suggestions are gladly welcomed!


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By Norasiah Gapar

Written in the 80s and storyline based just before Brunei’s Independence day in 1984.

The initial read was slow but once I got to the third chapter or so, I was hooked (line and sink within 48 hours). At first I thought it was going to be all about the main character, a female Bruneian doctor who just got back from UK after her medical training. I thought it was going to be the typical female character of the ‘ideal’ Bruneian woman – gentle, soft spoken, good manners, helpful to everyone, not to mention having beauty and intelligence. *eye rolls* I am so glad that the main character was given more depth and feelings – I actually liked her in the end! (Daym, even more annoying when you like the pretty/clever/talented girl) 

The ending has more twists to the plot and I couldnt help but be drawn and wish for more in the end (I also wanted a different ending but I promise, no spoilers….).

I love that there are different issues dealt with: interracial marriage, the Brunei rebellion, perception of what Islam entails, Brunei’s independence, medical ethics. Certainly for that time, this book must be a revolution! Not sure if revolution is the appropriate word but certainly a lot of sensitive topics dealt with in the book.

I do have to note that some of the medical information/cases reflected the theories and thoughts of medical society back then – things are much more progressive now! Main character was reflecting on how ‘little’ medical management was done for patient with Down Syndrome – which is how t was decades ago but this has changed a LOT now. 

I love that there is some romance in it and was actually rooting for the ‘hero’! Actual heart flutterings awaiting for the ‘happy ending’. 

A few things that bugs me:

The language spoken by the characters – it is too formal and little Brunei dialect used. I do understand perhaps she needed to formalise it so other South East Asian malay readers want to read it. However, I do wish to read books with Bruneian dialects in it. (Perhaps there are plenty! This is only the second bruneian book I’ve read.)

For those who doesnt understand the difference, the different ‘malay’ language is like this:

Formal Bahasa Melayu: ‘Apa khabar? Sila makan makanan yang disediakan. Ambil pinggan…’

Brunei Malay: ‘Apa khabar? Bah makan tah makanan yang kana sediakan ani. Ambil tu piring…’

(Translation: How are you? Come and eat the food prepared here. Take the plate…’)

There are lots of similarities but also lots of differencea and certainly different nuances and pronounciations for the different dialects!

She also used some words I’ve never heard before and sounded more Indonesian. Like ‘kaget’! Who used the word ‘kaget’?? Actually I’ve just googled it and it means ‘surprised, startled’. 
Also just one last thing – can we update the front cover please? It certainly looks 80s kind of book cover but wish it can be updated to make it more appealing. I guess you really should never judge a book by its cover. (You will increase sales with how a book cover looks like)

Kudos to the author Norsiah Gapar, who won the SEA Write Award (2009) and National novel writing competition (1987). 

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