The Bathroom Singer Goes Live and Other Stories

Last Saturday was BAMSA Night for the 2012/13 academic year. After sorting out the Chinese dancers in the last week of practice I volunteered to help out with Dikir Barat in which I became Tukang Karut. Yay for a first!

It was nerve-wrecking as singing traditional Malay songs aren’t my forte and I had to sing on upbeats. Miss the cue, mess the whole ensemble. I was still unsure which key to sing on and  during the tech rehearsal I couldn’t project my voice properly and was drowned out by the percussions. I did quite alright despite a 0.1 second facepalm onstage during the actual performance when I sang the wrong lyrics.

The following are some pictures taken during a full dress rehearsal using a borrowed Canon EOS 600D, kit lens. I don’t know if anybody took pictures during the actual performance, we’ll wait and see.

Indian dance led by Chareeyan.

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Chinese dance was choreographed by yours truly. Song was Wang Leehom’s Mei. I must have listened to the song hundreds of time and dancing/singing everywhere (bus stop, toilet, walking to lectures, library) while thinking of the steps. As usual, since proper practice rooms are scarce on campus, we were practicing at various building foyers after lecture hours. The ICIA exhibition space at 3WN, down at the Maths’ department at 4E, or the spacious lower ground floor of East Building.

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There was better audience appreciation this time compared to the previous fan dance/break dance mash up. I learnt that if you’re going to try a new dance combination, the dancers have to be very good to pull it off. For this dance I used basic steps and formation (we only had a month to get it done) although for some parts were a little tricky. Half of them had almost never danced before.

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I really appreciate that they turn up for practices diligently and the only male in the group really did his best to give a good performance. He was so stiff during the first few practices xD

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Omnishambles

Tuesday was labs in the morning, shop for ingredients in the afternoon, baked dozens of chocolate cupcakes on return, ran out of icing towards evening, travelled with a huge box of cupcakes on two buses up to university, Chinese dance practice, and was completely knocked myself out on the sofa for a few minutes when everything was (almost done), got up and showered, checked on my team, got pissed at a few people, tried to go to sleep but anxiety caught up (managed to sleep later).

Next morning was another rush up to campus with another big box full of cupcakes, made the effort to attend Madlab lecture (got there just on time, so went into class with the excess baggage), rushed to put down the cupcakes and top the remaining ones, got pissed off at a few more people, and spent a couple hours selling cupcakes. Went home, wanted to sit down to do my lab report but brain was just too exhausted.

I am very, very upset that I keep getting the load of a group project on my back.

Just because I have more free slots on my schedule does not mean my academic workload is less than yours.

Just because I make things seem easy does not mean you should add to my list of things to be done.

This is my 4th year of taking up proper project works. No, not the academic type. I have done several event managements, one volunteering programme, staged productions, and now I’m doing a social enterprise project.

The first event I did was back in Mantin during my sixth form. Nearly screwed up my A-levels.

The volunteering programme was alright. I had a great team to work with.

The one time I wrote, directed, and choreographed a dance for a play and at the same period trying to organise a massive event and getting a student society running I flopped my second year.

Yes ladies and gentlemen. I’m in my second, second year.

I don’t make a fuss out of it and try to keep it from the first years because so far the ones that I’ve mentioned about my repeating second year immediately had this shocked open mouth + extra-large round eyes and a tinge of fear respond and started worrying if things are going to be equally shit for them.

I wanted to drop this social enterprise project I’m currently on as its beginning to feel like how I felt during the year I flopped. The bulk of the work is on me, expectations are high, and team experience low. Doesn’t help that group discussions are on social networking sites. I’ve been meaning to be less frequent online and spend more time facing my study materials. I’m already sheets behind on problem classes.

I’m beginning to envy the students who are actually making most of their time studying and since they are less tied up to student societies’ committee responsibilities they can spend their weekend chilling out to celebrate the end of a productive week.

My priority this year is to gain a solid first class to make up for the extra year of paying tuition fees. The digits on the payment receipt for the fees earlier this semester haunts me every time I take on extra work that doesn’t count towards my degree.

£15,000.

When the money runs out, its game over.

Notts So Autumn

It was the annual Nottingham Malaysian Games again and this year I came to play Batu Seremban. Lost in the quarterfinals and then ventured out for food which turned out to be a long, long time queuing. Gave up the prospect of standing in a stagnant line and went around meeting up with friends and a bit of frisbee.

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The Malaysian Pancake Company was the most efficient stall around. There was a constantly long queue with the addition of customers but the line was kept moving with hot apam balik continuously being served. Encik Shahrel’s stall have expanded so much since the last year from 12 apam balik pans to (I’m guessing) 24 with 4/5 staffs as compared to just him and a student helper the previous year.

Apam Balik boss!

I heard of students queuing up for 2 hours to buy ayam percik. I gave it a miss as I couldn’t be bothered to stand for ages outside just for food. I visited another stall to say hi to my ex-classmates who were manning the stall and got nasi lemak instead.

The ladies prayer room turned social area in the evening when I went to do my prayers. It was so so noisy I muttered “Ya Allah, bisingnya” shortly before doing my prayers. People, have respect lah. There’s a long notice at the entrance reminding visitors the basic etiquette to observe when visiting places of worship. Nottingham campus is huge. Go fucking find another place to gossip please. God must have heard my laments as halfway through my prayer people started leaving. Still had to tell a group of people to hush before my second prayer though.

After my prayer two girls came in. I was a little unsure which direction to take to head to the sports centre and as one of them wore a Nottingham t-shirt I asked if they will be heading there so I can come with them. They haven’t had dinner so I waited with them and had a conversation.

God must love me as they had ayam percik and offered me some (I hardly ever resist free food). They got it complimentary from the makcik who were trying to clear the leftovers after the food stalls were closed (double wahooo!) and when I saw the size of a single serving, I think I know why they took ages to prepare.

Ayam percik long line theory : A single serving was a quarter roast chicken with rice. A quarter roast chicken takes approximately an hour to cook in a convection/electric oven. Possibly slightly more if cooked over coal outdoors. This would be fine if serving people in a restaurant where customers may come in at intervals. Logistical nightmare when you’re confronted with dozens of hungry students all coming in at the same time, also buying for their hungry friends.

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Trickling

Holding on to ideas have been like trying to keep water in the cusp of my hand. They either trickle away before I could work on it or if I manage to hold on to them it turned stale within the next few days. Perhaps I should get a physical journal or notebook to scribble on while I’m commuting or at work (I can yet afford an Ipad/tablet with my own money) and scan my works and upload when I get home. The following list are some of the things I have intended to write but have yet to start or finish writing :

1. A short story for a project with the Institute of Creative Minds.

Initially it was supposed to be a collection of fables/legends/short stories for from around the world, and then it was sort of forgotten and then there was Animotion which features real time animation with theater. Recently I checked on the website Animotion was replaced with Audiovisual Orchestra real time animation with live music. I might have possibly missed the boat to collaborate with one of the most impressive visual/performing/live arts ever.

2. Mambang@TEDxKL

The first part out of 3 which I intended to finish writing was actually noticed by one of the organising team members and she contacted me to ask if they could curate my writings for their records or something like that. It’s been more than a month and I’m still not done yet. I still have the notes taken during the event though. Possible to pick up and continue writing this.

3. The Unexpected Interview

The meeting was unprecedented. My mum’s friend only told us he invited a friend of his at the very last minute to our little breaking fast gathering during Ramadhan. Turns out he was one of Malaysia’s greatest choreographers. Through our conversation  he gave us his thoughts on Malaysia’s performing arts scene, having a career in performing arts in Malaysia, and funny encounters during auditions. This piece is still in the draft folder.

4. I think I got hinted at a proposal

The past couple of months I grew really close to one of the interns in my department. When he’s not busy he’ll take the time to ask about and listen to all my stories of studying abroad and happening things I get involved in during the summer break. He’s quite a shy one but when I’m around he makes lame jokes that cracks me up every time. The Friday before we break for the Aidilfitri holidays was his last day of internship but I wouldn’t be around and I told him so earlier that week.

When I stayed back on the Tuesday (as I was going out with mummy in KL that evening) as usual I was goofing around with the other interns and staffs and telling them about the new 3D edition of The Ring (Japanese version) was coming out soon and if anyone wants to watch or enjoys watching horror movies. After that I checked the time and asked how come he was not making his way home yet and this was his reply “Bukan I keluar sekali dengan your mum ke? I’ve got a ring in my pocket.” (Am I not going out with your mum as well? I’ve got a ring in my pocket).

5. #55Merdeka : Freedom of thoughts

If I wasn’t working 8 to 5 on weekdays I would have agreed to give 110% support to a friend who wanted to do a short film on Merdeka. I could either come up with a storyline or a script or do the co-producer job of getting  a writer or coming up with the idea. I had an idea that requires some research for it to be executed nicely, so we decided to cancel doing it now and develop this for  next year’s Hari Raya/Deepavali/Chinese New Year/Merdeka short films. Leo Burnett, watch out. Heh heh heh.

6. The Tudung Issue

So, during Raya I snapped a photo with my grandfather while wearing a headscarf as just minutes before we had a short prayer session. Thought it was a nice photo, uploaded onto the social networking profile page and made it display picture. Got a number of likes and then several people speculated that I’ve committed to wear the headscarf full time. Reverted back to my non-headscarf, regular-look display picture and released a little “press statement” clarifying that the picture was taken minutes after  a short prayer session which was why I had the headscarf on and I have no intention to put on the headscarf full time yet.

 

I probably should also do a write up on #KTMdiaries. An entry on the quirks of the passengers and the train services I go through Mondays to Fridays might be fun. I will miss KL, Seremban, and the KTM and LRT rides, the funky lifts in the Petronas Twin Towers, and all the good food when I leave for UK in a little less than 3 weeks.

Internship

Originally intended to keep my internship stint with PETRONAS quiet until I’m through but since people kept asking the same questions over and over and over and over again, I’ll write it down here.

I commute daily from Seremban to KL Sentral by KTM, and from KL Sentral to the PETRONAS Twin Towers where I’m based at. I leave the house latest by 6.05am, it takes approximately an hour and a half to reach KL Sentral and approximately 20 minutes from KL Sentral to KLCC. My average travel time to work and back is about four hours per day. Yes, it is tiring. After a month of this I gained the ability to snooze within 10mins of sitting down on the train and waking up just before I reach my destination. The first few weeks felt horrible (I fell ill twice in a month). Eventually my body conditioned to it.

I started my internship with PETRONAS mid-June and due to finish mid-Sept. The nature of the internship is non-technical and about 60% of my work is based around graphics design – I get to produce posters, web banners, and related promotional materials for internal staff events to be put up in the office pantry and the company’s intranet. I do my work mostly on GIMP (as they do not seem to have a provision to get an intern a license for Photoshop and Illustrator) and occasionally on Photoshop and, or Illustrator when I get to use a computer equipped with one of those or both. The rest of the 40% is running around helping out on events (again, all of this is for staff members and invited guests), putting up posters, writing out reports, drawing up presentations/graphs/charts/articles.

The nature of my work may seem to have almost zero relevance to the course I’m doing (Chemical Engineering) but it builds on my soft skills and opens my eyes to a lot of things. I benefit from being able to attend sharing sessions and classes on things such as Natural Gas Pricing, Cost Containment, and Wax Removal Systems. There’s also the fortnightly lunchtime lectures by Dato’ Dr Fatimah Az-zahra which I try to attend whenever I could.

Apart from the fasting month, there’s food everywhere. Snacks served during meetings, complimentary Nasi Lemak after Friday Tazkirah sessions, lunch packs for events ending or starting between 12noon-2pm, and the neverending supply of nibbles in the office. There’s also a convenience store in the lower ground of the twin towers which sells lunch packs for RM7.50 (there and about) for a set of rice and three (or two) side dishes. In the first week I manage to satisfy my cravings for keli masak cili, sayur lemak cili api and hati ayam masak kicap. You’ll find a queue before 9am (they sell all sorts of Nasi Lemak, mihun goreng, mee goreng, kuih, pau, etc) and during lunch time consisting mostly of PETRONAS staffs and people working in the various offices in the twin towers.

So far, so good I guess. The remaining weeks are going to be pretty busy with the annual Raya Decoration competition coming up and a departmental Raya Open Day so I’ll be having fun pimping up the office and assisting in the preparations for the Open Day before I fly back to the UK in less than a month.

Rants on the First of Syawal

Aidilfitri celebration was so-so. Collection amount was pretty decent. I do feel a little tired from entertaining people all day long. I didn’t go anywhere apart from my atuk’s house. I had my fair share of pulut and rendang.

Nobody asked me when I will be getting married (thank God!) but several people jumped to conclusions when I posted up a picture of myself and my grandfather and I was wearing a headscarf in that shot. Made it clear that I have no intention yet to be fully covered and dashed hopes.

Repeated myself over and over again that I travel from Seremban to KL from Mondays to Fridays and that I work as an intern from Mondays to Fridays, therefore Mondays to Fridays are out of bounds for me to ‘lepak’ (hang out) unless prior arrangements have been made to sort out transport and, or sleepovers as it is VERY draining for me to inconvenience myself for the sake of hanging out. I travel daily by KTM and average total journey time is 4 hours in a day. Weekends are the short windows I have to zone out/reset/recharge/chill before I dive into the crazy weekdays.

Repeated myself over and over again that I will be repeating my second year. I failed 3 papers, one of which is a 12 credit whole year’s module. The examination board did not let me resit the failed papers, instead offered me to repeat the whole year, which means everything in second year over again, which I accepted.

 

 

Terminologies

As of late the words iftar, hijab, suhoor, eid have been making rounds with increasing frequency in my Malaysian social circles. Most of this come from undergraduates/fresh graduates who are or have studied abroad. In my opinion it would be natural to be using these vocabularies if one has been studying in a country where Arabic is the main spoken language. The crowd who made these terms a trend however, are mainly UK and US university students.

These vocabulary tid-bits are absorbed as the students mingle around with the Arabs, Pakistanis, Indians, and the rest of the multi-ethnic Muslim community abroad. The non-Malaysians making up the Muslim community utilise the Arabic term to describe the various acts of worships because either they are Arabs, or that they do not have terms in their mother tongue to describe it hence the borrowing of the Arabic terms. Malaysians on the other hand, have long since had our own terms in Bahasa Malaysia to match its Arabic origins.

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The above is a quick list of common terms you might stumble on a daily basis. If anyone has any terms that should go into this or words you suspect the result of Arabification or terms you don’t know and would like to know, let me know so I can build a modest vocabulary listing of it for fun 😉

Malaysia has always been a curry pot of culture and language. It’s okay to use terms from other languages interchangeably in conversation and writing. In the case of the vocabulary listing above where we already have our own term for it which depicts accurately the teachings in the Quran, I opt to preserve bits of our own culture and wish people Selamat Berpuasa, Selamat Berbuka Puasa, Selamat Bersahur, Selamat Melilit Tudung, Selamat Hari Raya.

There is no point to using Arabic terms simply to sound pious, God knows and understands everything everybodyin the whole wide world says and whisper, even in your hearts.

If you really want to copy the culture of Muslims in the UK or abroad, have a go at dates with cream. Seriously. That was how dates were served every time I go to the mosque for buka puasa when I spent my Ramadhan last year in UK.

Lazy Saturday

It’s been weeks since I last posted an update; I’m such a lazy writer. Hours of travelling to and from KL added up with hours of staring at the computer screen at work (I’m currently doing an internship) can be mentally exhausting; once I’m home I don’t intend to exert anymore brain power. Words and ideas still flow freely as there are lots of things I would love to write about, but by the time I am able to sit down in peace to write my brain is simply fizzled out.

Saturdays often see me vegetating on the couch or stagnate on the bed. Spending a day of the week doing nothing is very tempting after Mondays to Fridays of leaving the house at the crack of dawn, commute to work-work-work, commute back home, shower-eat-sleep, repeat. Today I was a bit more productive than the previous Saturday.

Slept after the morning prayers, woke up 10 mins to 8am, got dressed, and mummy drove us to KL for a check-up with the ear-nose-throat specialist who saw to me when I was a kid, and then back home once done. Practically failed my hearing test; if walls have ears I might be more deaf than the wall. Sat down to watch reruns of Downton Abbey and then siesta. Mummy woke me up, showered, dressed, and headed for a buka puasa gathering at a community surau.

Felt like a hijabster for being the only one wearing a tudung lilit in a crowd of tudung bawal and one-piece types (note : I put on the headscarf whenever visiting a place of prayer or attending religious events for/by Muslims, in daily life I let my hair go crazy).

Speculated that many female lecturers in various local universities have that I-am-always-right tone of voice.

Ninja-ed a huge mosquito.

MambangNotes@TEDxKL [part 1]

TEDxKL took place at the Temple of Fine Arts on Saturday, a half-day event featuring a line-up of amazing achievers. We had Jo Kukathas and her Tudung Periuk, Myskin Ingawale with his eletron story, Kevin Jay and his “science of Comedy”, and Professor Ille Gebeshuber with her discoveries of iridescent little Avatar universe in our very own Malaysian rainforest, just to name a few.

Never mind the long wait in the queue before entering the event hall, the emcee I found annoying, and the attention seeking woman passing the souvenirs to be presented to the presenters at the end of the programme, there was so much to learn from everyone who presented their ideas on stage that day. The following are part of my notes from the day (there’s 5 pages in total) as I scribbled as much as I could in half-darkness without losing attention to the speakers:

Khairil Yusof proposed for an Open Content, Open Source, Open Government, that is to have the ruling government to make information and data on the projects they undertake, list of contractors, expenditures etc accessible to all Malaysians. He believes by doing this, corruption can be cut down as the people would know what the government has been spending on and to whom do they award project contracts and such.

In my opinion, there are things which has to be kept confidential and there are details which are okay to be released to the public. Every business will have its competitor and to keep its upper hand in the market there will be bits of information that it will have to keep to itself. There are contracts which deals with other governments (as in the case of O&G companies, they bid for “blocks” in other countries and are allowed to set up oil rigs etc by paying an agreed amount of royalty or shares blah blah blah). The world is rife with politics and this sensitises a fair amount of information. If you don’t follow this explanation, let me know. I’ll think of something to explain what I’m trying to say in a simpler manner.

Jo Kukathas was AMAZING. She impersonated Cik [somethingsomething] bin Tudung Periuk from the section of Lost, in the department of Lost and Found where her job is to lose things. She touched on how Malaysia has lost so much of its culture [ Mak Yong, wayang kulit etc] and its current attitude is that of rejection. One simply has to watch her in performance to take her message in whole. Part of her performance on how back in the zaman dahulu kala, Melaka’s reputation was such that “Whoever is lord of Malacca has his hand on the throat of Venice” ( Tomé Pires). She added  that now, “We do not have our hands around anyone’s throat. We only have on our own throats. Self-strangulation. Malaysia Boleh.”

Ok so until here’s Part 1. I need to sleep in a bit to be fresh for the 6-something train tomorrow morning. Will continue writing soon 🙂

Once the TEDxKL peeps have released the recorded videos of the event, go watch it. Every single one of it.

A Mambang Tall Story – Week 1

Once upon a couple hundred metres up in the city centre of Kuala Lumpur, Mambang reports in for the first day of internship.  The address and the exterior of the building is glamorous, pass the lobby, the security, and the bizarre elevators it was like any other average office in KL. The square cubicles, clutter of discarded printed materials next to the printer, mementos arranged on desks and on narrow cubicle dividers, and most peculiar were the collections of key chains from places the owners have travelled before pinned in series on each personal board.

All the lost hours of image editing and graphic rendering in the past year were compensated within the first week. The moment work starts rolling, it’s a massive roll like some oversized bun attempting to stuff itself down your throat. Edit, edit, edit, review, review, review, edit, edit, edit….  End of first week and user ID to access the computer terminals have yet to be issued. Coped with work on charity of other people’s access.

Next incoming editing and graphic design works may have to be done with GIMP on the personal laptop (until I get my access and Photoshop installed on the computer I’m assigned to). At least that eliminates having to worry about missing fonts or continuously shifting workspace in search of an available machine with Photoshop installed.