Friday, March 4, 2011

The Five Steps of Mr Tae's Retirement

If we were Malays we wouldn't be able to work here, we are already at retirement age - it used to be 56, but a few years ago they put it up to 58.

Mr Tae, one of the chaps in our department, has just retired after 37 years in the service, at least 17 at the institute. His retirement had five (5) stages ...

1. First there was a special (free) lunch for faculty in the Institute canteen - fried chicken and rice and watermelon. (We attended, but I did not partake - the chaps did, and declared it tasty.)

2. Then there was a meeting of all faculty in the "Dewan" hall.

Lots of speeches - in Bahasa Malysia, with the chaps behind us occasionally explaining or translating for us. And then presentations of gifts from each department to the retiree. Also a gift was given to everyone who had had a birthday in the last three months (this picture).

3. The students had a special meal to honour their much-loved teacher. (We didn't attend)

4. The English Department had a special meeting to honour and farewell Mr Tae. We went along a little reluctantly, but found it a remarkably moving experience.

Although their expressions were sometimes a little childish, it was soon clear that these trainee teachers really appreciate this lecturer and he will be sorely missed.

There was musical drama showing how a boy with failing grades was lifted to a A++ ...

... and a large friendly banner ...

... and a Chinese dragon (Mr Tae, of course, is Chinese) for which he was asked to paint a red dot on the eyeball ...

... and by the time the choir had sung "To Sir With Love" (and the big, friendly Chinese girl in the front row approached him and looked like she was going to kiss him but backed off at the last moment) ...

... there was hardly a dry eye in the house.

5. Then came the weekend, and yet another farewell to Mr Tae - this time from just the staff of the English Department, and a few outside guests. It was on the Friday (weekends being Friday and Saturday) in a hotel, for which privelege we were asked to pay 30 ringgits (about $10) each. Well, we grumbled a bit (expecting a few hours of being surrounded by people joking in Bahasa Malaysia and not having a clue what's happening), but we got dressed in our best batik, and went anyway.

Well, they had booked a very lavish buffet meal (afternoon tea, 3.30pm) in a posh hotel on the island Pulau Duyong in the middle of the Terengganu river - with views across the river and harbour to the city and out through the river mouth.

The food was amazing - even I found some very pleasant morsels - and they all spoke in English almost the whole time! There were a few speeches, and little ceremonies ... like a birthday cake (it was actually his 58th birthday, time to retire!).

It was a great chance to get to know some of our colleagues better, and even remember a few names - we find especially hard with the women, they can all look so similar!

It was great, right up until they started the karaoke - well, what would you expect!

The last few days have demonstrated how loving and close-knit our department is, and how well they care for the students. We are looking forward to working with these people more over the next 3 years.

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