Thursday, June 30, 2011

Yay! Bea is here!

Our first visitor here in Kuala Terengganu.

We took a few days from our annual leave entitlement, and returned to Laguna Redang Resort on Redang Island.

Bea managed to cross "drink a whole coconut" off her bucket list ...

We had rooms that opened right onto the beautiful beach.

We went snorkelling right there, as well as elsewhere around the island.

And this time we had our clever little Lumix camera - works underwater, as long as you don't go too deep.

The fish maybe remembered us from last time ... because they seemed HAPPY to see us!

These fish seemed particularly interested in Bea ... fortunately she had some bread for them.

The other hand is above the water, trying to keep the rest of the bread dry - it's quite tricky to do, with the waves swooshing you back and forth at the same time.

Now you're getting the hang of it.

No, Bea! DON'T bite the fish!

Ow! What was that! They can't tell the difference between fingers and bread!

This is the safe way to do it. But not nearly as much fun really.

Ah, there's one biting "this little finger on my right"!

This chap is considerably bigger than the rest - found it was safer to let go of the bread before he grasped it.

And, yes, there were sharks!

A couple of these babies (about two feet long) were swimming around under the crowd of fish I was feeding, trying to catch some of the small fry that were after the scraps.

Other Wildlife

There were squirrels running boldly all over the place - this one had a definite evil glint in its eye!

But we wanted to see monkeys!

Everywhere there were signs "Please don't feed the monkey", and we were warned that if we left stuff on the balconey the monkeys might take it to play with.

They said that in the evenings a family of monkeys come out of the jungle to feed at this spot ...

And they told us to make sure we had a forked stick to protect ourselves. *sigh* well, they didn't come.

Jungle Trek

Still eager to see a monkey or two, we signed up for the jungle trek.

It was very very very humid, and we climbed and clambered up and down hills and over tree roots and streams for more than an hour and a half.

We saw a lot of interesting flora, and our guide - who had grown up in a kampung (village) which bordered on the jungle - explained how various plants were used.

Suddenly, he made us all stop, and he listened momentarily. Then he ran off the trail in mad little circles until he found a couple of sturdy sticks. "I hear monkeys!" he explained, giving a stick to the person at the front and one for the persson at the rear. We were very excited, and grabbed a couple more sticks - as we weren't the end people in the group of seven and therefore felt rather vulnerable!

But a few minutes later he began to relax a little and explained that the monkeys were gone.

Feeling very hot and sweaty, we finally reached the fishing village, and were very grateful that the deal included a boat ride back to our resort and we did not have to return through the jungle.

It was lovely, but it's nice to be back in our apartment in Kuala Terengganu. We have a few days here with Bea, and then we are all flying to Kuala Lumpur where we have to present papers at another conference.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Working in Malaysia

Our Office

Big, light, air-conditioned - not a bad place to spend the day. Of course, if that's all we do, then there will be no bonus. We need to be out there in the staffrooms and classrooms mentoring and assisting ... but there is a LOT of desk work and planning too.

The empty desk is / was Lloyd's - he has just transferred to an institute in the big smoke, Kuala Lumpur.

Peter's desk is over there with easy access to the printer and the coffee-desk!

The mat in the middle helps to reduce the echo. For Malysians who enter our office it presents a dilema because generally one removes shoes to walk on any mat, and they stand there on the edge hardly daring to believe that we are telling them it's ok to walk across in their shoes.

This charming lady is a lecturer who came in to ask if we could do a short workshop with her students - it's a bit different from regular teaching, we were ready for this change!

The First Week of a New Semester

The closing ceremony of the induction week for new students for this semester. We didn't have to attend (as it was all in the Malay language) but got the word from our Head of Department that it was desirable.

Then we got busy with what we were doing, forgetting all about it, and suddenly we realised we would have to walk over there and walk in late.

We hoped that we could just creep in at the back and stay a short while ... but as we tried to do so, the Rector - sitting on one of the thrones on the stage - caught sight of us and signalled to someone to guide us to a seat - it was right in amongst the students (rather than at the front with the lecturers).

As usual, the girls were all sitting together on one side, all wearing their white headscarfs (there are different colours for different occasions) which are reserved for formal and religious occasions. There are a few Indian and Chinese students without scarfs.

The boys on the other side are all in white shirts and the little black Muslim hats. The lecturers, on the other hand, are all wearing brightly-coloured batik shirts because it's Thursday and all government workers must express their Malaysian pride this way on Thursdays.

The Rector got up to give his speech. We always dread conversations with him because his English is very hard to understand - one day we both nodded and agreed to something (each presuming the other was getting it) without understanding a word ...

We knew he had seen us, and would want to welcome us. We wondered if he could remember our names - last time he welcomed "Mr Peter, and ... I'm sorry, I can't remember your name ..." But, he did himself proud, after a bit of a stumble, and actually welcomed us in English.

MBMMBI classes

The initials stand for something like 'strengthening the English language while supporting the Malaysian language' - you can understand the dilema the country has with wanting to encourage English while not losing their own identity.

There are in-service courses being held in the Institute for teachers who are out there in the schools teaching English without ever having been properly trained to do so, and so naturally we are involved in the teaching. Once of the good things about it is - food! Here I am sharing some little dried fish, white rice, and a coconut milky pumpkin concoction with a couple of the other MBI teachers. (There is also some 'nasi kerabu' - rice and vegetables dish - but laced with too many chilis for me.)

And, of course, I am wearing my 'baju kurung', traditional style dress, without the headscarf which only Muslim women wear.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Stuff you see about the place

Things you can eat

if you really want to!


Places to eat

if you need to bulk up maybe.

Keep to the footpath ...

or maybe not ...

I guess no one walks.

Dealing with those pesky mosquitoes.

We have heard this thing, even smelt it go past, and seen its vapour trail pluming up from behind trees and buildings, but this is the first time we have had a clear view of it. We don't know what kind of insecticide it is, but I guess it's not as bad as the diseases the mosquitoes carry. (No one has fly screens or mosquito nets.)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Laguna Redang - great place to relax

After the stress of the MELTA conference (!) we felt a weekend on the distant island we can just see from our apartment window would be just the trick.

While Kuala Terengganu has beautiful beaches, they are wild places with all kinds of rips and tows, and no one can swim there - kite-flying seems to be the only acceptable activity.

We did a practice run to make sure we could find the right jetty at Merang - about half an hour north of here - just as well because there were no signs as such and it would have been frustrating looking for it on the actual day. We were glad we arrived early because we scored a spot on the first ferry out, others had to wait several hours.

We arrived at the resort - Laguna Redang - and the first thing we wanted to do was get into that water! All the red life vests - people here wear floatation vests to go snorkelling and swimming! (Yeah, they are generally afraid of water, and nobody knows how to swim. Gotta love Oz!)

We had a lovely big room, cool and spacious.

In fact, between swimming outings it proved a great place to veg out with the iPad!

Meals were, of course, a buffet, and the food was mostly Chinese - the other guests were almost entirely Chinese - but we were allocated a nice table with a view of the beach at every meal and it was very pleasant.

The resort offers (everyone) a 3-days-2-nights package, which includes 3 boat outings for snorkelling. We went on the first one, but were so disappointed by the dead coral and minimal fish life that we then went snorkelling off the beach in front of the resort.

In the resort they sell a packet of frozen white bread (60c) for feeding the fish ... It was amazing! A huge cloud (school) of many varieties of fish - from small-fry to quite large (scary big in fact) instantly gather around, pecking eagerly at the bread - and fingers, toes, arms, anything that could resemble bread!

When we first arrived they served everyone with a (complementary) salty-plum drink, something we had never tasted before (although we have eaten salty plums before). It was milky looking, with limes as well. On the last day, waiting to catch the ferry back, we treated ourselves to another salty plum drink at the bar.

We have already booked a return trip for when Bea comes to visit at the end of June.

Soooo loooking forward to it!

International Conference

It's all about our "KPI"s. (Key Performance Indicators). These are the things we have to achieve in our job in order to receive our end-of-year bonus. It's a bit different from working for an Education Department in Australia. So, anyway, number 3 is:

"Prepare and present one professional paper related to improving English Language teaching and/or training in Malaysia at a conference, seminar or other appropriate professional forum."

So, there you have it.

The MELTA conference (Malaysian English Language Teachers Association) was being held right here in Kuala Terengganu this year, so of course we chose to present at MELTA.

Lots of big meetings, plenaries, that sort of stuff.

And then parallel sessions - 113 of them - by people like me.

My session was late in the day, last one before tea, and I expected there wouldn't be many there. But it was packed, extra chairs needed to be found. Music and Rhythm (in the English teaching classroom) make for a popular topic.

Peter's was well attended too, talking about changes in Education. Unfortunately I was unwell and didn't get to attend his.