Blogger of 13 years

So I’ve come down with the flu. I actually tried testing at work to confirm if I indeed have Flu virus as its doing its rounds within the paeds team and also kids in Leicester. You can test it by having your snot sucked out (or blow it out) and there’s a machine in the ward that can check it in minutes. So I blew my nose a few nights ago but apparently it was so gunky, it wouldnt run through the machine. Gross I know – I just wanted to give some visuals on how my nose felt that time.

Since I’ve been bed/sofa-ridden, I have decided to browse through my old blog entries. As in my OLD OLD blog. I started blogging in 2004 – so I think I must have been in my second year of medical school, aged 20. My heaviest entries amounted to 260 entries one year – where did I have the time??? And what could I possibly write about? That’s basically writing almost every other day. 

There are plenty – and I mean plenty – of cringe worthy moments. Mostly on how young (read immature) I was. I was also much more exuberant, I’ve documented a lot of funny and silly going-ons. Now I’m just a boring aunty. 

I wrote 2 posts – and it was so cryptic – on meeting M and I kinda wished I did write more, yknow relive the moment and all that. That said, I mostly feel thankful I havent explicitly written about any guys or crushes … that will be mortifying to read. Take note kids, be careful of what you write online. Once put in the world wide web, it’s a free for all public gallery. It will certainly bite you back one day! 

I lost my first hard drive and didnt save pictures from way back when I came to the UK, about 17 years ago. But I’ve put on a lot of pics in the blog so I’m glad at least I’ve got some #tbt pictures. This reminds me… I used to have a flicker page too, maybe I can retrieve my pics from there.

Iman and Bazlaa – my two oldest anak buah. I talked about them A LOT. Things I dont even remember happening even now.

The many many fun things we did in uni. This one – camping near Kinder Scout. My first camping experience in UK. This picture is bittersweet as Fidod – guy behind Zimah – passed away unexpectedly for us due to cancer. He was a friendly, chums with everyone kinda guy. He was also witty and can be padas with his wit and humor. He was also thoughtful and kind. 

Al Fatihah – semoga rohnya di cucuri rahmat.

Life is indeed short; we never know when its our time and how easy we deny ourselves of this.

Graduation! The 4 amigoes – my study group. The ones I definitely owed my exams success to… all those studying sessions before finals. Inda karing gusi with them. Sung & Joanne – its been awhile!!

I wrote a lot about my travelogues – except for NY. Which is sad. NY was paling happening. Trip to Egypt was most eventful though – reading brought great memories.

Who knew this online writing has saved me memories of my travels and daily life stories? 

It’s interesting to see the evolution of my writing. Immature and conversation-like, full of dialogues to begin with. Then as years go by, more deep insightful musings – I think I was way wiser back then. I seem to know all these quotes. 

Funnily enough, I found an old resolution of mine in bid to be healthy. It read something like this:

1. Eat veges at least once a week

2. Eat fruits everyday

3. Go to sleep early

4. Exercise daily

That’s STILL not happening guys! Except for the eating veggies part. I eat veggies now and even if I dont like it, M forces me to it and he makes a big deal of having veggies in every meal.

Ok over and out,

me

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Book Reviews

Is it February already? I wrote this last week and realise I havent posted it. So here goes my book reviews for January:

Oh wow, I actually have surpassed my own expectations of my personal book challenge this year. Last year, I read about 25 books which is a whole lot more than I have done in the last few years. I was aiming to read 1-2 books a month and Alhamdulillah, achieved it. This year, I thought I’ll go for 50 books a year.

Now this month, I have read 5 books! Ermigash. How did I manage that? Ok so two of them are really easy reads but I loved them and brought me joy, so who cares? 

Books completely read

1. Hogfather by Terry Prachett

This is really not my kind of genre but it was the book for December in the FB book club that I’m in. I started reading it mid December and found it a bit hard to read. Completed it just after the new year. Maybe I’m just a bit slow really haha for these kind of books. It is a outwardly ‘magical’ kind of book (but not happy, ahh no it was all about the Devil here) and had a lot of philosophical meanings to the story. Sorry ah, I’m deep but not THAT deep.

Anyway I’m glad I finished it and actually enjoyed the Devil’s character and do find some humor in the book. From the book club comments, apparently the books featuring the Devil characters are more entertaining so I might dip in again to challenge my intelligence. But yes, it was a hard read.

🌟🌟🌟 and a wintery ⛄️ to match.

2. Born a Crime by Trevor Noah 


I have been wanting to read this for ages. I actually have lots of paperback books that is in my ‘to read’ pile but I cant help it! I have embraced the new year’s attitude of C’est La Vie! And so, I will get on with things that I’ve been meaning to do for ages. 
Now this book… I dont want to give spoilers but it is so heartwarming and heartwrenching at the same time. I’ve learnt so much more on the apartheid – for which I only knew the basic facts before this. It bogs the mind that it was still happening in the 80s and only ended in 1991. That is not long ago!! And yet the racial profiling and ethnic minority inequality still prevails in many many parts of the world. 

Trevor Noah speaks his mind and boy, is he a funny guy. I have smiled and LOL-ed, imagining his voice as I read through the book.

Definitely recommend this!! 

🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 ❤️❤️❤️ (haha labih)

3. Maximise your child’s bilingual ability by Adam Beck

This is exactly the book I’ve been looking for in my quest to improve Zayan’s malay. Amongst the many ingenious practical suggestions, it also emphasises on why its important to stick to our resolve to teach the minority language.

Zayan and Ayman is understanding more and picking up more vocabulary nowadays. Just this morning, Zayan got annoyed at me because I kept talking in malay. “Why do I have to learn it? I know enough already!” Even after explaining why (amongst all was so that he can use it to speak to his Nini boy, nini girl, Pak Wa, Ngangah, Uda and all his abang and kaka….etc), he was still stroppy and refused to talk or look at me. My only retort was that: “Zayan, one day you’ll be happy I taught you this…” 

And this is what the book emphasized. To stay strong through these challenges, because there will be plenty a time when the kids will react like this. I do think that no bilingual kid ever think ‘Man, I wished I didnt know this language…’ – you’ll always be of benefit the more languages you know I feel.

(Fast forward a few hrs later, he asked what the different words are in malay, without my prompting.) 

He also has a website called Bilingual Monkeys, lots of great advice and tips there!

🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 

4. Sofa So Good by Scarlett Moffatt

Ok so this feels like a guilty pleasure book. First up, I love autobiographies… of anyone! I’ve read Michael Crichton’s – the guy who wrote Jurassic Park. Did you know he used to be a medical student? I even used his book in my scholarship interview as my ‘what books have I read recently’. I also have read Alex Fergusons – blame my brother there, it was his. Truly any biography – I love to read. 

So as a fan of Scarlett Moffatt from Gogglebox, I thought it might be a laugh and cheer me up this winter January. And so it did. She is so unbashedly happy with what she have, so ‘uncool’ in her appreciation of celebrities (though I love Ant and Dec too) and so motivating. She ends  each chapter with a motivational quote and themed her chapter that way. May be a bit cheesy but it did make me smile.

🌟🌟🌟🌟

5. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Now I really love this book. I must say, I thought the character was painted OTT formal but the writer evolved her beautifully and gave her character much more personality as the book went on. It gave me warm fuzziness at the end. Also a bit chilling on the account of the mum. Anyway not gonna spoil it but I like this one!! 

🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Books that I completed but tbh jumped a lot during reading:

6. Raising a Bilingual child

This wasnt what I expected. Esp since the cover says ‘step by step guide to parents’! It was more theory and research and less practical tips. It talked a lot about benefits of having bilingual kids – I know what the benefits are! I do not deny the benefits, thats why I am reading books like this. Sigh. Anyway, not worth reading unless you’re into the research or not convinced with benefits of acquiring more than one language.

Books currently read: 

7. Pengabdian – Brunei Malay novel book. Will do proper review once I finish reading it.

8. What’s up Turks – about a malaysian marrying Turkish guy and living in Turkey

Books I read in December

This is going to hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor by Adam Kay 

Very accurate writing of the workings of NHS. Lots of LOL moments. He was working as obs & gynae registrar and was probably working up till the point where I am now (halfway through registrardom). I feel for him when he said he no longer works in NHS – he wrote of his story behind it and the reasons and many of us have been there, I’m sure. The book is both hilarious and touching. 

🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

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What a shit day

*written not long ago but didnt have the heart to click Publish*

Please mind the language but the day pretty much feels like that. Today will be a better day they said (after overwhelmingly high number of patients yesterday). They lied because I had a cardiac arrest call at 10.10 am. And it wasnt a test call, which I love answering to because its just a test call. I try to be optimistic on the way to ED, maybe kid will be alright now and not an actual arrest. ‘PEA coming in…’ the ED consultant said. Ahhh no, that’s not good. PEA, Pulseless electrical activity means there is electrical activity in the heart but there is no pulse felt.

Bottom line is: the kid didnt survive. From a medical and resuscitation point of view, I couldn’t criticise on what we did. It was a smooth resuscitation, if you can ever call a resus that. 

Now I’ll let you in – I have had experiences of non-survivable cardiac arrests in children and whenever parents are informed of our decision to stop, it is never easy to see their reaction. I have to bite my lip so I wouldnt cry myself. I tell myself if I am the consultant, my voice will be strong and I wouldnt cry (I hope). 

The actual formalities after didnt bother me. What needs, must. Doing the formal examination after. Explaining to parents protocols of what happens after. Going to bereavement office. Its fine.

But when the sibling came to say goodbye, ok I just couldnt take that. Left the room to dab my eyes for a second. Finished my paperwork and returned to CAU. 

I carried on because I had no time to digest what happened. ‘Nothing’ happened really – as I said, it was a smooth resus. Nobody made a cock up. Nobody shouted at each other. The leadership and teamwork went fine. The outcome just wasnt favourable. So I carried on with my day as the numbers just kept coming in. 

Ah carrying on. I know these things happen and shit happens. Life goes on and tomorrow will be another day. 

But I want to just lie here and think:

I had to do CPR on a kid today.

That kid didnt survive.

The parents of that kid and his siblings will have their lives forever changed now.

Shit happens and I know that.

But for now, I’m gonna think about that kid because its my way of paying respects for someone I only just met but had to do CPR on. And also I think if I do not ever think about this and bottle it up, one day it will come out and drag me down. And you know what, I’ll say it here – a kid died and I was there. So now, for this moment, I am sad. Tomorrow the sun will come out and all will be fine again. But tonight I am sad.

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Changing small habits

Anyone else having ‘Inspired to be a new me in January’ thoughts currently? I feel motivated to plan things in advance now (because my life this year will be organised! and I will actually do things I want to do!) and tick the boxes in my ‘to do list’. 

Go for a facial – tick

Book dentist appointment for me and kids – tick

Go full throttle on my quest for kids to learn malay – tick

Konmari kids clothes – tick

Rearrange furniture and buy stuff from ikea (more organised house, more mind is free, so they say…) – tick

A new year, a new me!

And then I thought – I really hope this feeling doesnt leave me. I mean I know we all have our ups and downs but I do hope the new habits and my enthusiasm will sustain through the year. 

That’s why I have come to learn that  this life lesson will work better than having big resolutions: change small habits and keep track of it everyday. It may be something simple as using floss every day or going to sleep at 10 pm. Yup doing a small habit consistently – m pretty sure it’s a sunnah. Gretchen Rubin wrote a whole chapter or two on it and I was like heyyy I learnt this already from Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w). Because when you do one small thing consistently, it will become part of you and then you get consequence from it (sleep early = less tired = wake up good mood = happier in morning to start the day…. kinda thing!). Hopefully then you will be motivated for next thing! 

Anyway just rambling now and heard my breakfast is ready (eggs & sausages. NYUMS). Ta!

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Yes, I’m your best friend

Ok I will admit that I’m all for having my own personal space as Ayman is more clingy nowadays. Nowadays meaning the last 6 months or so. Always wanting me for everything. Gets jealous if Zayan gets close to me. Waking up middle of night and coming to our bed (he didnt do this for the first 2.5 yrs of his childhood). Always wanting a kiss. Not just one peck. Peck me on right cheek. Peck me on left cheek. Peck on lips. And aggressive pecking at that! (more like smothering) Aghhh.

Then one night, he came to our bed in middle of night and I put him back in his bed, zombie-like. As I snuggled with him, he asked in his small, cute toddler voice “Am I your best friend, Mama?” 

Cue heart spilling everywhere.

“Yes Ayman,  you’re my best friend.” (Just dont tell Ayah and Zayan) 

That night, I didnt mind at all being woken up by this cutie monster.

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Zayan & Ayman’s malay journey

Continuing on my post of getting my kids to be more bilingual, let me expand more on how things have been and are doing for the kids.

When Zayan was a baby, I spoke more Malay with him. As he grew older, his speech was delayed. He didnt speak until he was 2 years plus – though his understanding of speech was good and he is a master of facial expressions and body language. 

I would be speaking to him in malay and pointing out objects: “Tu kerita!“ (Direct translation: That car) “kerita!” “car!” No response. Over time, it was just far easier to say it in one language to ensure he understands. Also plenty of words in Malay are two or three syllables.

Ke-re-ta = car

Ca-wan = cup

Pi-ring= plate

Ja-ngan= Dont

To-long = Help

So it seemed far easier (and lazier for me) to talk in English. What a rookie mistake, one that I actually regret a lot. It is far easier in the long run to speak malay and overcome that initial challenge, than to teach kids who already is proficient in the majority-language. I was and continue to be the only malay speaker in their lives, with family far away and little engagement with Bruneian/malaysian community here – I am usually working when there are events and because all the ones I know have gone home, I no longer know the community and feel like an outsider. Also I realise when we do meet with Bruneians here, they tend to talk in English to the kids – probably again because it is far easier and simpler to get communication across.

Now Zayan is just a chatterbox, wouldnt stop talking. Over time, I started talking in malay more. He just didnt get me though. And then he started getting frustrated. “I DONT understand you!” Seriously a year ago, he would be crying because he didnt understand what I was trying to say. Even when I explained it in English. Sigh.

As for Ayman, I was determined to learn from my mistake and start speaking from the beginning. I would be talking to him in malay when he was a baby and secretly hoping by osmosis that Zayan will get it too. Now Ayman actually knows a lot more malay words and understands me more. Also he doesnt get frustrated – he takes it like a baby who is learning a language. He just takes it in stride when he doesnt completely understand. I dont tend to explain in english to him unless I really need him to understand. Eg dont play near the hot oven! His speech development for both languages is more advanced than Zayan was at his age. I guess there is the advantage of having an older brother being chatty to you as well!

As he turned two, I saw a shift in him though. Whilst before he would say words in malay like ‘susu’, he now speaks in English. Especially since he started nursery 6 months ago. When he asks for milk, I would say ‘mau susu?’ and he would go ‘NO NOT SUSU! MILK!’ He knows susu is milk but he doesnt want that word to be used anymore. I persist though and go ‘ok, susu….’ to his background of ‘Milk! milk! not susu!’.

So in the last year, I became gentler with my approach. I say single malay words on things they encounter a lot. “Ok, let’s mandi…” “Tidur time…” “Do you want to eat nasi and ayam?” So now they recognise and even say the individual words. 

Zayan has also come to realise that he knows two languages. He knows susu and he knows milk. He used them interchangeably. M once said ‘what if he uses susu at nursery?’ but I think kids have innate ability to know when to speak what or learn when someone doesnt understand them anyway. I’m not sure what he was thinking when he heard malay and english… and in my case, I mix them up a lot even with malay friends and with my family. Now he has acknowledged they are two different languages. He also realised that he cant have a proper conversation with his grandparents and I think that fueled him to learn more. He now asks what the malay word is for so-and-so. The thing is a lot of times, I dont even know what it is! “Mama, what’s aubergine in malay?” “Whats construction in malay?” Oh dear, can you see my battle here. 

Over the last week, as I vow to speak more Malay and teach them more, I realise how much Zayan understands though. 

This was our conversation few days ago:

“Mama, my leg is hurting….”

“Kenapa ya sakit?”

“Why does it hurt? I dont know!”

“Zayan gugur kah?”

“No, I didnt fall….”

“Bila ya start sakit?” (ok I cannot say ‘mula’ … it sounds so formal)

“Are you asking when?”

“Yahh…”

“Uhhh 40 years…”

“Apa?? You’re not even born yet 40 years ago!” (Had to respond that ludricous statement in english)

“Ohh ok… erm 20 days…”

“Ok, kalau zayan lari, sakit?”

“No it doesnt hurt when I run.”

I was pleasantly surprised how much he understands! Which is now encouraging me to just speak in malay. 

As for Ayman, as I am introducing more malay reading and writing exercises to zayan (I know, I’m so nerdy and such a tiger mum), he feels proud that HE knows the answers. He knows the body parts and handful of animals. So now he is one up than his brother (who excels and ‘wins’ more on things usually). 

So hopefully this is a good start in the kids journey to mastering malay. Though their sensei mama is not even that great a speaker, but hey I worked hard at GCE O level malay, so I can do it again. Maybe this is my  opportunity to learn and get to know my language – both standard malay and bruneian dialect- more.

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One’s language is part of one’s identity

 

 

This year, I am making a very conscious effort to make Zayan and Ayman learn and speak more malay. I’ve finished reading the book ‘Raising a bilingual child’ – I dont really recommend it unless you’re into the whole research behind it. Most of the book is research on bilingualism and case studies of different bilingual (or trilingual or polygot) families. It didnt really add in that much practical tips, which is what I’m after.

What it did tell me is that to be successful in having a bilingual kid, you have to:

  1. Have positive attitude
  2. Have belief that they can do it
  3. Be consistent

See, I am only half-hearted in all three aspects above. I get frustrated when they dont understand me, I keep forgetting to talk more in Malay (also it is easy and less complicated) and I keep doubting that my kids will ever get there.

Some people have said ‘its ok, they’ll learn it once they’re in Brunei’. Really? I struggled with my Malay GCE O level and I lived in Brunei all my life!!! What I don’t want them to have to do is start at a disadvantage and having to catch up. What I also do not want is for them to feel like an outsider – language is after all a large part of one’s cultural identity.

One of the things pushing me more is the fact that my parents dont really speak English. They can get by in public places, buying things, asking for directions and understanding to navigate around in UK. To really have more than a superficial conversation, it would be done in Malay. So when the kids skype with their grandparents or when my parents come over (or when we visit), I do wish the kids can talk freely to my parents. Not just superficial conversation of ‘what did you do, do you want to eat, where did you go’.

I grew up in a household of Malay speaking parents and their generation and the generation above. Even now, most of our conversation will be done in Malay and the odd English word from me if I can’t remember what it is in Malay. My parents sent me to a private primary school. All private schools are of English medium, so I spoke English in my classes (except for obviously malay class). I watched American TV shows and movies, which half explains my (weird) accent. It’s funny because all the white teachers I’ve encountered in Brunei are either from UK, Australia or New Zealand. I read books in English mostly.

Then I went to a government high school, which is also of English medium. For awhile, I thought kids grew up like me – speaking a combination of malay and english. Until I started religious classes (think it was in Year 2), which is actually a different school of its own – you go to sekulah pagi (morning school), have lunch and then go to sekulah ugama in the afternoon (religious school). Most morning and ugama schools are located separately, though I think it’s combined now (or some schools are combined now).

In ugama school, everything is in malay. And it’s not the malay you talk at home, which is Bruneian malay dialect. It’s formal malay. Also ugama schools are government schools, so all the private school kids have to go to one anyway. I learnt very early on not to show my english speaking ability to my classmates. ‘Eeeee, speaking yaaaa….’ Yes you get mocked. You’re seen as a posh kid showing off, unless of course you meet other ‘speaking‘ kids.

And as I grew up, I just spoke, read and wrote more in English. My speech would be a combination of both malay and english language. I came to realise how bad my malay is when I was in Year 11. We had a mock oral Malay exam and I failed terribly (think I had a ‘Just Pass’). I couldnt utter complete sentences smoothly. Dont get me wrong, I can speak Bruneian malay just fine, but the problem is that the language you speak at home is informal and not in complete sentences. So I worked hard to get my malay grade up, mostly by reading and practising writing malay compositions.

Now I go days without talking in malay (does Whatsapp conversation even count?) and I actually miss it and do get tired of speaking in English! Ngalih bah sebenarnya cakap dalam urang puteh ani. Kadang2 mau cakap melayu saja pasal ngalih lidah ani.

I also realise that once it gets late late (past midnight), I struggle with putting english words together. It’s as if my brain is tired and then I think in malay and then have to think some more to translate it to speak english. I remember being really frustrated during handover after a night shift – I just couldn’t construct my sentences smoothly to hand over properly after a hectic 12 hour shift.

So yeah, I want my kids to learn malay (mumtathil is learning by osmosis and he’s good with languages like that) because they’ll learn more about me too. There are just some phrases in malay that you can’t translate properly into.

‘Gerigitan ku’ is a phrase usually directed to either cute babies or when you’re really annoyed at someone. It literally means ‘I want to bite’ – so either you mean ‘that baby is so cute, I just want to bite him/her’ OR ‘He’s so annoying, I just want to bite him’ (imagine annoyed person clenching jaw, fangs out kinda thing).

I have also used the phrase ‘Apeeeh’ (which is short version of ‘Apa eh’) with my kids. Usually when Ayman tries to be all cute and silly, kambang nya urang Brunei. The direct translation is ‘What eh’ but I mean it as ‘you’re being silly now, look at you’. It can also be used as an expression of dismay, disbelief or pleasant surprise. But said in a different tone.

‘So-and-so won the lottery!’

‘APEEEHHHH!’

‘I’m getting married!’

‘APEEEHHH!’

Kid acting all silly (aka capi-capi).

‘Apeeeh, kambang jua.’

I dont think the kids truly understand what it means but they seem to understand the context of it being used. Ayman was being capi-capi one day and Zayan went ‘Apeeeehhh’. That cracked me up.

Kambang and capi2 are also adjective words that cannot be truly translated into English. Kambang can be obnoxious or arrogant but when used with kids, it can also mean ‘acting up’. So sometimes kids act all silly and extra loud when there are guests/strangers, this is called ‘kambang’.

Anyway, that’s it for now. Next time I’ll talk about my struggles with raising bilingual kids!

 

 

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