Sunday, May 29, 2011

Moved, again

This is now the view that greets me each time I return to my room.

Yes, I have moved, yet again. But for good reasons.

First, it is cheaper than the previous place.
Second, it is nearer to uni than the previous place. As in, right across the road, which means
Third, I do not need to train to uni.
Fourth, Woolies is at the doorstep.
Fifth, Aunty Pat is nearby.
Sixth, new housies, which means new faces and places to add to my database of life.

I wonder what kind of experiences await ahead...

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Teaching children respect

by Deborah Lambeth

Everyone needs respect. In a world where the current mantra seems to be "it’s all about me" there seems to be a loss of respect in many different areas—loss of self-respect, respect for property, and respect for others. If this is the situation from an adult perspective, then how do we teach children to have an attitude of respect?

Most of the schools across America have been implementing what they call "character education." While this is a good approach to teaching children different good character traits, I believe the teaching of these begins and home and continues long after the curriculum has been taught. The character education curriculum is comprised of teaching children many different aspects of character—trustworthiness, responsibility, fairness, and respect just to name a few. In the teaching manual on respect, they list six components:
  • Treat other people the way you want to be treated.
  • Be courteous and polite.
  • Listen to what other people have to say.
  • Don't insult people, or make fun of them, or call them names.
  • Don't bully or pick on others.
  • Don't judge people before you get to know them.
These seem to be very basic tenets of being an all around good person. But how do you teach a child respect? There are several ways.

1. Modeling. This is the simplest way children learn. If a child hears your opinion about not liking other races, for example, the child will begin to emulate that, as well. On the flipside, if a parent exhibits a kindness towards people who are different, the child will begin to see the world as an opportunity to learn from different types of people.

2. Start at the very beginning of your child’s life. When children are old enough to play and share, it is important to teach children how to take care of their toys. This is one aspect of teaching respect for property. Teaching children how to share is also a component of respect.

3. Teach your children how to talk with people (not to people). Asking how someone’s day is going, complimenting a person on what they are wearing, etc., being concerned about something that person may be experiencing are ways of teaching your child to respect other people.

4. Expose your child to different things. Take your child to a cultural festival so they can see and experience cultural differences. Unusual foods, interesting customs, different types of music and dances can be a way a child develops interest in and acceptance of people of different races/cultures. Cultural differences abound in this country. Rather than look down on people who are different, look at cultural differences as an opportunity to learn and experience something different than your own.

5. Demonstrate respect. Do something kind. Make it a goal for you and your child (or children) to do something kind for someone at least once a month. Give your children choices and help them decide what they want to do. It may be taking used clothing to a shelter, selling lemonade on the corner and giving those proceeds to an organization that helps children, or going to your local shelter to serve a meal to the homeless.

6. Teach your child to say no. Say no to drugs, premarital sex, inappropriate touches, unwanted behavior, cigarettes, etc.-anything that would have a bearing on their development physically, socially, and psychologically. One of the more difficult challenges is to teach a child respect for themselves, but in order for a child to exhibit respect to others, they have to learn how to respect themselves. This means teaching your child that some things are just unacceptable. The bottom line is that everybody is worthy of being treated with respect—even the individual!

Aretha Franklin’s song is a good one that we all should remember however old we are! As a mnemonic device, you might want to consider this a way for your child to learn respect:

R-Respect yourself
E-Everybody deserves respect and kindness.
S-Socio-economic status has no bearing on whether someone should be respected.
P-Property. Respect other people’s property by not abusing or damaging it.
E-Environment. Respect the environment by not littering, conserving, and recycling.
C-Cultural differences should be embraced, not criticized.
T-Things. Respect the tangible and intangible things that are yours as well as others. Respect the wants and wishes of others. Respect other people’s opinions.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T—not a hard word to spell, actually and not a hard word to implement either.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Down memory lane

Perhaps it is due to recent happenings in my life that I have flashbacks of the past as I prepare for bed at night. Unconsciously, people and places that used to matter to me stop by in their journey on my train of thoughts to smile and wave at me. Reflexively, I smile and wave back.

The autumn colours along the pavement in uni and the piercing cold winds that are ushering winter into the year bring back memories. Special ones which make me think that I have experienced much; emotionally, intellectually. I did not realise how much one person could have an impact on me, especially one whom I was confident was a passerby in life.

Goes to show how much an ass I made out of myself.

Sometimes, I cannot help but activate my iPhotos to browse the photos that were taken during the autumn adventure I was on last year. It was one that continued to be a wonderfully memorable winter, with me doing random unanticipated things. Things like take a train in the wee hours of the morning to spend a whole day with a person I hardly know to places not set foot on for a photo-snapping spree.

I walk down this lane pretty often. This lane has windows of memories; some which I merely look into while some are which I open to have a better look inside.

As much as I do not enjoy thinking and saying this, but I feel that this stroll down memory lane is a happy one. And it reminds me heaps of you.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sudden goodbye

I was shopping in IKEA when my mobile phone vibrated in the right pocket of my black Giordano hoodie. It was an SMS from Dad:

Yesterday, mum went to... On the way, she dropped in two see Grandparents. Both alert, she said. I'm in Tawau today. She just called to say that Grandpa has passed away.

I went blank for a bit and because I was in IKEA, I tried to contain myself. I did well until Mum returned my call and said this at the end of the conversation:

No need to fly back, okay? Gong-gong can't see or hear you anymore. When you come home next time, we will bring you to pay your respects to him, okay?

I replied with a mono-syllabled nod. I had to turn away to wipe the tears that were bulging at the edge of my eyelids.


I will always remember the added festive atmosphere of Chinese New Year that you never fail to create by coming home for reunion dinner half drunk from drinking beer at your mahjong sessions down at the kopitiam singing at the top of your endearing tenor voice.

I will always remember my first and only ride on your pink Mini Bus (yes, those that used to conquer the roads before RapidKL and Metrobus).

I will always remember the combination pork porridge you packed from that porridge stall at the Pasar Besar Serdang to let me have as comfort food when I had fever.

I will always remember your jovial character and how you laid on the cool tiled floors with one leg crossed on the other while reading the papers.

I will always remember how you would jump up and ask, "Have you eaten? Want something to eat?" every time I come to visit you and called out, "Gong-gong!"

I am proud to have had the chance to be your granddaughter. May I have this honour again next life, please?

Love you, Grandpa.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Celebrating 2,600 years of Buddhism

Wesak in 2011 marks the 2,600th year of the Buddha’s enlightenment and the teaching of His Dharma. And to celebrate this special occasion, many temples around the world hold various programmes including courses,seminars, exhibition, drama, and movie screenings to help the public understand and appreciate His teachings.

Buddhist friends and devotees are also encouraged to participate in devotional activities such as alms-giving, blood donation, chanting, meditation, and Dharma talks. Different temples would have their own ways of collecting donation, such as through oil lamp lighting, or monk robe sponsorship.

Wesak Day has always been a day I thoroughly enjoyed since understanding the Dharma more. I disliked it when I was younger because I had to get out of bed really early in the morning and join the crowd at the temple. Sometimes, I got lost and when your height was up to an adult's waist, that was no fun!

The day begins with alms-giving, donation and chanting at the Maha Vihara in Brickfields. The atmosphere is colourful and vibrant. The soothing sounds of chants float in the air while we queue to join the others in the main prayer shrine to partake in the water blessing ceremony. Here, we also receive threads of yellow string - a typical Buddhist symbol - to tie around our wrists.

Mum then makes donations for incense and candles. These candles are no ordinary candles. These candles come in the shape of a pink lotus flower sitting on a green lotus pad. Mum normally makes separate donations in the name of the family and the centres. She also donates by sponsoring oil lamps and monk robes.

The above are daytime happenings. After tucking ourselves into a light vegetarian lunch in a nearby Indian restaurant, we head home to rest in preparation for the activities in the evening, which to me are the highlights of the day.

My Wesak memories are filled with the float processions that go through the city with the picturesque Kuala Lumpur skyline as a backdrop. I always have enjoyed walking for three hours with a whole entourage of devotees and some curious tourists. Perhaps also, it is simply something else that I relate to and enjoy with my parents.

So if you are enjoying the bright full moon in the clear night sky right now with a lovely cup of tea in hand, or if you are in KL right now with thousands of others ready to take to the streets with colourful floats, I wish you Happy Wesak and metta.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Buns for Books!

I came across Mari Kita Membaca (MKM) a few months ago through a friend's facebook page. Literally translated as Let’s Read, MKM is a project to bring books to children living in the rural and under-served areas of Malaysia and to encourage the love of reading.

They believe that by cultivating the love of reading and independent learning they contribute towards empowering local communities. They work closely with grassroots organisations and partners on the ground supporting local initiatives. They take inspiration from the local communities, who despite the lack of resources, work hard to provide education opportunities for their children.

Education, like in any socially stratified society, is the key to breaking the cycle of inequality and discrimination. I have also found this in UNESCO and UNICEF reports, which support the work of their consultants and other personnel in imparting education and care skills to local communities in hard-to-reach areas. They go by the saying of how giving a man a fish will only let him eat for a day whereas teaching a man to fish would help him eat for a lifetime. By equipping the local communities with skills and knowledge, they come to realise the power of education thus would feel motivated and would strive to provide their children with a better future.

Currently, they have provided Library Boxes (the books are packed in lovely boxes!) to Orang Asli (indigenous) villages in Negeri Sembilan, Perak, Johor and Sabah. They also conduct reading activities in many of the villages.

In support of their good work, I managed to get the co-operation of the Malaysian Students Association (MSA) in uni and PappaRoti Australia to help me in raising funds.

A big thank you to Clayton for coming up with the designs above and for being the messenger between the MSA committee and I. Also, a big thank you to Junda and his PappaRoti team for sponsoring the buns.

Look forward to seeing everyone on Wednesday!