Resting at home, Batu Pahat (13 - 14th August 2007)

Monday, 13th August 2007: I've started on a new project - helping mum sort out old photos. Found some from when I was a baby, in primary school, my teenage years etc. Have to scan a few for a blog post when I have some time :)

Dad and I went to Hutan Lipur Soga Perdana for a walk around 4.30pm. This is a popular place for the local residents to exercise, walking up and down the steep stairs. Dad, in his fifties, is definitely fitter than me - I had a hard time keeping up! We walked all the way to the end to the Look Out Hut where you could see the whole of Batu Pahat. A nice forested place with a proper path built to walk on.

It took us 45 minutes to go up and down the hill. I felt hot and it was hard on the lungs as I climbed uphill - shows my lack of exercise ever since I quit the gym. Not a good sign; need to go back to the gym. Photos taken: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8070917@N05/sets/72157602163410900/detail/

Oh yeah, today is start of the Por Tor Festival or the Hungry Ghost Festival. In the Chinese tradition, the 7th month is regarded as Ghost Month, in which ghosts and spirits, including those of the deceased ancestors, come out from the lower world to visit earth. Activities during the month would include preparing ritualistic food offerings, burning of hell money and bags containing clothes, gold and other fine goods made out of paper, for the visiting spirits of the ancestors. Ghost Festival in Malaysia is modernized by the 'concert-like' live performings on a temporary stage that is setup within the residential district. You'll see lots of these as you drive around the town at night. Very lively and brightly lit.

Lots of Chinese businesses were closed today and they all have a burning rim of joss stick and candles around the building - I have no idea why (I'm Malaysia-Chinese but I have no clues about Chinese traditions). Sorry!


Tuesday, 14th August 2007: I dropped by Kolej Aman to see my former college classmate, Kishan, who's currently a lecturer in the college. It was nice of Kishan to show me around. The college looks much the same, only the reception desk removed and now replaced with round tables and chairs for informal meetings. Dr See, our principal during our college years has left the college and so have many of the lecturers during our time. Well, that was 5-6 years back and people move on.

How did I end up in Kolej Aman, you ask? Well, I first entered Kolej Aman in 1999 and I have to admit, it was the last place I ever want to be found studying in. I can still recall telling my highschool girlfriends that I would never ever go to Kolej Aman just because it was located near home and not prestigious enough in my eyes then. Hah, see where I landed up immediately after Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia, or better known as SPM (SPM is the national exam taken during the 5th year in highschool - we have to sit this to graduate from highschool)! At 17+, I didn't know what I wanted to study (ok, perhaps I had a few courses in mind but mum and dad didn't agree that it would earn me a living in the future). Long story short, all I wanted was to be able to go overseas to study, at least for a year and the only available option then was to study in Batu Pahat where I would save on living costs so I began my Information Systems diploma in January 1999.

My first few weeks there were somewhat uncomfortable - a majority of the students came from Chinese schools and the English-speakers were a small minority. I felt like a black sheep among the lot (well, you know how 'well' I speak Mandarin). But given time, I got to know the other students better and some of my closest friends today were those I met in Kolej Aman. I guess I also left quite an impression on the students and staff at the college - I held committee positions in most of the associations and clubs, was giving free tutorials after lectures, and was also one of the regular scholarship receivers (one of the others was Kishan). I wasn't surprised if some of my classmates thought I sugared up to the lecturers and Dr See, and disliked me - I didn't need to do that. My hard work and results were the reasons why they remembered me. Some probably thought I was stuck up because I spoke mostly in English. Truth was, I wasn't that great in speaking Mandarin so spoke in English. Their perceptions changed when they got to know me better, and we laughed at my funny Mandarin accent whenever I try to speak it!

I ended up with Accounting and Finance as a second major partway through my studies because the number of students for the Information Systems class were small and the papers were not offered as often. Rather than sitting at home in between terms, my folks and I decided not to waste time and I took on the 2nd major. At some point, I remember I was taking 5 or more papers - days of sleepless nights just studying for exams and completing assignments.

In 2001, a few of us applied for a twinning scholarship to Victoria University and the short-listed ones went to the main campus in Rawang for the final interview. By the way, Kolej Aman used to have branches in Peninsula Malaysia - today, only the Batu Pahat branch remains. I was the lucky candidate to receive the partial scholarship which covered part of my tuition fees for my final year study at VUW.

Dr See often joked with me that he would offer me a lecturer position if I ever consider returning to small town Batu Pahat upon graduation. I don't think the offer stands open now that I'm looking for a job after my holidays and the college being run by new management :)

Looking back, I did enjoy my 2 years plus in Kolej Aman. I made lots of good friends, saved mum and dad a sum of money to finance my education, and still manage to have some fun (including learning to play badminton and mahjong...hehe) while putting in a lot of effort to do well in my studies.

It was great to catch up with Kishan though only for a short while. I always have the memory of Kishan as a shy, quiet person but the Kishan I met was not one. It was a pity I didn't have my camera with me to take a photo of us together - we'll have to do it the next time I go back! Drop me a line sometime, Kishan! Always lovely to hear from you :)

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