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.

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