All things come to an end

2 comments
Those last days before the exams! A journal-entry is in order.

Wednesday [19 December 2012]

Day: I felt sluggish the whole day. After US History class (5 pm), I couldn't stop yawning...yawned all the way back to my mahallah, halfway through dinner (only because I decided to just sleep after yawning through the first few mouthfuls).

Night: Received two pleasant surprises in the e-mail, from King's and Manchester. Ayah was not impressed hahah. I'm not worried though, I'm his daughter I don't have to impress him (I just need his approval). Plus, whatever options I have, my priority is to pick the program that offers (1) the most intensive Hebrew lessons -- I am still that girl -- and (2) the best training in Jewish historiography [why do you think I'm in the History department, not Usuluddin/Comparative Religion?]. I need tools, strong ones.

I was relieved because this means that no matter what replies I'd get from UCL, SOAS and Oxford in the next month or so, I would have these two offers as insurance...but honestly I was more concerned about the next day's exam, because I haven't started revising for it at all.

Most of all, it was comforting to know that after, like, seven years of dreaming and planning and waiting, things are actually working out in the right direction. Alhamdulillah 'ala kulli hal wa ni'mah.

(The reply from King's also reminded me how I'd made an embarrassing error in the personal statement I sent them -- I'd mentioned UCL instead of King's in one of my sentences! -- but I guess the MA Convenor and whoever else it was that read my statement very kindly ignored that goof. My face burns just thinking about that stupid, stupid mistake.)

I forced myself to read up for the exam. Another delayed bedtime.

Thursday [20 December 2012] 

This was the last day of lectures...the last ever for my undergraduate years! I spent it like any regular lecture day, attended classes from 10 am to 12.50...

...except that at 3 pm, we sat for our first final exam paper -- for Rise and Fall of Civilizations. I was not super-prepared for the topics that came out in the questions, but overall I enjoyed the exam. Alhamdulillah. I am still not sure whether the second question meant ALL the Hebrew prophets or just the ones after the destruction of the Temple, but I focused 80% of my essay on the classical prophets, and only discussed the Patriarchs in one paragraph. Totally left out Moses and Solomon...deliberately. Allahu a'lam. Let the lecturer judge my judgment.

Really, the things you second-guess once an exam is over! (Once after the Ayyubids and Mamluks exam, I worried about my interpretation of a preposition in the question. It said "achievements in the military field", and I was horrified because while answering the question, I thought it said "achievements on the military field". I mean, did it mean the actual battleground or the more general military field? Oh forget it).

After the exam, I met up with Iimaan. She gave me a bag...the Human Sciences canvas tote I'd wanted so much!


Terima kasih Iimaan. Just what I wanted :)

9 pm: Night out with my History sisters, we had dinner at the place across the kubur. I (We) ate pulut mangga (awesome), seafood goreng (in a sizzling plate), kerang rebus, cendol (the one at KLCC food court is way tastier), several varieties of Secret Recipe cakes (I don't understand cheesecakes), kerabu mangga, sotong goreng tepung (they should've called it tepung goreng sotong), kangkung goreng, a bit of tomyam, daging goreng merah...and looked at the kailan goreng, udang goreng tepung, steamed siakap and rice.

Is this my first time blogging about what I had for dinner? I know I wrote about food before, but full dinner menus? Anyway, nobody bothered to take photos of the food.

Back at the mahallah, began compiling the video on the Blackfoot tribes around midnight.


Friday [21 December 2012]

Finished rendering the video around Fajr (U-Lead only crashed once! Alhamdulillah), but the format I chose made a really low-def video, so I re-rendered the thing as HD. Waiting for videos to render is really boring so I got me some sleep first. Fancy HD (widescreen) format distorted the subtitles, though, so I re-rendered it into a different setting when I woke up at 8:30 (or was it 9?). Typed a couple more paragraphs about President Wilson's New Freedom campaign and his illness and death, concluded the biography, put in the references, done with the paper.

10:30 am: Walked to library, unloaded two bagfuls of books into the After Hours Book Drop hole-in-the-library-wall. Went to HS building.

Dropped the CD with (a) a PDF of Woodrow Wilson's biography and (b) a video assignment on the Blackfoot Nation in Prof. Kopanski's door-box -- those were my last assignments as an undergraduate!

11:30-ishNisa' and I went to see Dr. Wan Suhana for consultation about our performance in her courses (plus a few other things).

[Oh and I've just checked the marks for my Islam in Modern SEA open book test ugh. Now getting A would be (not impossible, but) rather difficult. Still within reach, though (I can only afford to lose 3 points in the final exam!!!). I'm a ray of sunshine.]

Noon: I called Dr. Hafiz to see if I could pick up my paper on Egyptian Jewry at his office...but he was in a rush to attend a meeting so I'm going on Monday. Spectacular carry marks for Muslim Nations in Contemporary History, alhamdulillah, but I still need to ace the final exam for an A in this course.

Crossing off the days; the Peloponnesian War not part of my January plans; 
fined for expired stickers on the laptop and iron


The future looks like my dreams, but leaving this place is proving to be harder than I thought.

More later, inshaAllah. Make du'a for me, o readers of good faith!

Overwhelmed

3 comments

HS building levels 4 and 5, Friday 21st December 2012.
 Heartache.


Oh mirror in the sky, what is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?

(Landslide, Dixie Chicks/Fleetwood Mac)

[Delayed post] The short sem: Illustrated, with notes

4 comments
I wrote this during the short sem, but put off publishing it (just because). 

So I'm publishing it now because: 

  1. Iimaan said "kat post yang short sem tu kata nak tulis lebih byk post kan haha". 
  2. Like I said to Leila, I don't want to regret (after UIA) not blogging more about life in UIA while I'm still here. 
  3. I'm trying to ignore the fact that my IELTS speaking test is tomorrow, 10am. My strategy so far: Talk like my future depends on those 11-15 minutes with the examiner. We'll see how that goes. 
  4. I'm tired of thinking about the Jews of modern Egypt. And the prospect of writing up the papers for Modern Arab World and Islamic Civilization. Oh and preparing for the presentation on "Muhammadiyah". Not to mention the deluge of post-mid-sem-break mid-term tests and quizzes.

*               *               * 
Anyway, the post is just a 2-day diary-thing I wrote while doing the literature review for EAW.

Khamis 28 Jun 2012

21:00     Begin online search for journal articles. Read photocopied book chapters/books borrowed from library. 
02:35     First breakthrough (it was that difficult). Immediately gets addicted to the searching.
05:10     Sleep



[My laptop broke down so I had to use my father's].

10:15     Wake up
11:30     Begin online searching and printing articles at ITD computer lab
15:00     Bind the articles at photocopy shop, buy some cake from the bazaar -- there's always some kind of bazaar in UIA, every sem. Buy dinner at HS Cafe
15:25     Reach mahallah. Brunch/tea/snack on some cake [see photo below]. Sleep.



20:20     Wake up. Dinner. Finishes the remaining slice of cake.
21:15     Begin reading printed articles. Make notes along the way.

Jumaat 30 Jun 2012

03:25    Room mate pops in. "Maryam, are you working on an assignment? (So early in the sem?!)" "Yuhhhhh it's EAW, there's so much to do. I have to submit my first draft by the third week yaddayadda" "I know, I took that too." "You did? The English one? You can choose?" (because she's a Qur'an Sunnah major, and IRK peeps usually take the Arabic version of this course). "Yes. It was horrible, I don't want to remember it" And on and on for about five minutes. Then back to the articles. 

[The room-mate in question is now back home in Istanbul, for good. The short sem was her final sem. We really miss her oven, too. She (a) loves cats (b) listens to ABBA and asked for the mp3 files of the Dixie Chicks songs she heard playing from my laptop; which means we have the same taste in music (c) left an Istanbul key-chain on my noticeboard (plus several other household items for us) before she left (d) cooks, bakes, and loves cats. What's not to love?].


04:30     Kölbl, C. & Straub, J. (2001). "Historical consciousness in youth: Theoretical and exemplary empirical analyses."
04:50     Picasa break. Sambung makan nasi + tomyam dinner (See photo below). Birds outside already chirping.
05:15     Resume reading Kölbl & Straub.
05:30     Feeling sleepy.
06:10     Sleep.
 

08:39     Kak Seri calls. "Awak kat mana?" "(Groggily) Kat mahallahla kenapa." "Ada orang bagi pisang, kak Seri buat goreng pisang, nak?" "(Slightly more awake, excited) Nak, nak!" Back to sleep.
Sometime after, somebody else calls. I didn't want to pick up the phone, so I let it ring, and then put it on silent mode.
10:15     Kak Seri arrives at my room! She had to call Najwa to ask where our room was, because I didn't answer her calls or reply her texts (was asleep, phone was silent. Happens all the time). Apparently the bananas didn't turn out well (wrong kind of pisang), so she made cucur ikan bilis. Whatever, I ate them happily. We ate and talked.
12:10     Kak Seri leaves for her weekend class, she's taking a part-time diploma in Education something. I washed my shoes, then resumed reading the endless articles.
13:15     Mixed up ontogeny with ontology while looking up the first word on Google.
14:05     Done with Lee, P (2004). "‘Walking backwards into tomorrow’: Historical consciousness and understanding history." By this point I know that my survey was not going to involve finding out the respondents' historical consciousness orientation based on Rüsen's typology.
Break. Finished reading and making notes from four articles so far.
15:30     Boil eggs (in electric kettle) for sandwich. Continue with reading.
15:50     Sambung makan cucur ikan bilis.
16:33     Finish reading Haeberli (2005). Sees possibility of replicating some parts of his research.
18:50     Dinner with Kak Seri, her class finished (really early) unexpectedly. She bought chicken mandy rice for me, lamb mandy for her. 
19:50     Already feeling drowsy. Forced myself to stay awake (at least until normal bedtime) because I needed to break the up-all-night, sleep-during-the-day cycle. 
21:12     Still reading and making notes, but continuously snacking on honey (liquid candy!) to stay alert.
21:50     Done withh Selwyn (2009)
22:50     Done with Madge et al. (2009). Pleasantly distracted by some Facebook conversations. Felt weird because I was at the same time reading articles/study reports about Facebook in the lives of young adults/college students.
23:05     Begin reading Pempek et al.'s article (2009) from the last paragraph upwards.
23:57     Alhamdulillah, done with all the articles. Three or four have been taken out along the way (unnecessary/not very relevant. Plus, we can only use 10 references max. This is going to be a problem 'cos I've already had eight articles on my list, and about six book waiting to be included. Maybe I can negotiate with the lecturer? I mean, I usually have to use 10 references minimum, so how come it's 10 maximum for this Academic Writing subject? She did say something about not wanting our research to be overwhelmed by previous literature, but still...)

Further notes:

1) Alhamdulillah, I got A for EAW. 
2) Thank you to the 15 girls and 15 guys who participated in the survey. I literally could not have done this without you.
3) I'm not always this hardworking. In fact, most of the time my desk features more food than open books. 
4) I'm dreading the moment when I have to say goodbye to UIA. My heart breaks just thinking about it. 
5) Now back to my Ritz with honey breakfast.

Disorganized student misses blogging

4 comments
...And resorts to numbered list.

1. I miss the silence of blogging. Facebook, with all its merits, sometimes feels too crowded.

2. Time is flying by really, really quickly.

3. I don't know why I bother to kemas the books at home. Every time I come home, new piles sprout out of nowhere. On the sofas, the coffee tables, the dining table, the floor. Unfortunately books don't move by themselves.

4. I want to go on a cruise down the Suez Canal, from Port Said to Suez/Port Tawfiq.

5. The other day for Modern SEA class, we had to compile a quick "profile" for a country. I picked Laos because I knew nothing about it. We had to draw the flag, map and national emblem (whoop!) of the assigned country. I miss drawing.

Pensel tumpul. That means (my hand shook while taking the picture).


6. In the second week of sem, we learnt how to convert Hijri dates to Miladi dates. Ugh. Had to do the calculations using the handphone calculator some more! Major hate. I didn't arrive at the correct answer for a couple of the dates.

7. Master's applications. It shouldn't be stressful, but it is, a bit. I have never wanted anything so much in my life.

8. All praises be to Allah who inspired me to take up French lessons once upon a time.

9. Now I feel like working on my 2 presentations, 2 mid term tests and 3 term papers (and pretending the research work doesn't exist). One more crazy hectic week (Allah help us!), then comes the mid-term break (during which I'll sit for my IELTS test, Allah help me).

10. Thank you for reading. I need your du'as!

I know this is not Twitter

0 comments
But I don't feel like writing long entries at the moment.

In less than a week from now, the new semester will begin (Excited excited excited!).
It will also be my final semester (I don't wanna close my eeeeeeeeeeyyyyyyyyes...!)

Some reflections on research work

0 comments
Kedua-dua subjek yang diambil dalam semester pendek ini bukannya subjek sejarah. Tapi untuk English for Academic Writing (EAW/LE 4000), setiap pelajar diwajibkan membuat research pendek/term paper yang berkait dengan major/department masing-masing. Tak cukup dengan itu, ada pula tema yang ditetapkan (section dia boleh pilih antara dua tema: social networking atau career). Memandangkan metodologi kajian yang ditetapkan agak terhad -- survey questionnaires dan interview (yang tak berapa digalakkan kerana semester pendek terlalu singkat untuk mengatur interview appointments, membuat transkrip dan sebagainya) -- dan cukup berbeza dengan gaya normal kajian pelajar Sejarah* (look up narratives and artifacts, interpret, compare with other evidences to determine the "truth", and on and on and on), maka dia memutuskan empat perkara:

1) Kajian yang lebih sesuai tentunya kajian yang melibatkan orang awam (as opposed to interviewing historians and "the history of such-and-such" topics).

2) This is not exactly the kind of research I prefer, but it's still enjoyable. Biasanya sebagai pelajar sejarah, kerja kami adalah menyelidik kejadian-kejadian sejarah, bukan memikirkan metahistorical questions (persoalan-persoalan tentang the discipline of history itu sendiri). Walau bagaimanapun,

3) Dia tak mahu membuat research yang berkait dengan career. Kemungkinan untuk menimbulkan worthwhile research questions memang ada, tapi bagi dia jawapannya sudah nyata. Kalau anda belajar sejarah, anda akan memilih salah satu daripada jalan-jalan ini:

  1. Jadi ahli akademik atau sejarawan profesional;
  2. Kerja dalam bidang yang berkait dengan sejarah (muzium, arkib, penulis novel sejarah?);
  3. Terlibat dengan history education (jadi guru atau pensyarah sejarah);
  4. Sambung pengajian dalam bidang yang berbeza;
  5. Kerja dalam bidang yang berbeza;
  6. Tak perlu kerja (Everyone repeat after me: I don't want a job, I just want money). 
Dan tak kiralah mana-manapun jalan yang dipilih, insha Allah, the training that you had acquired in (studying) History will give you many benefits in life. Jadi, perlukah bersusah-payah menulis term paper mengenai "isu-isu" yang berkait dengan kerjaya dan bidang Sejarah? Seperti membosankan. Metahistory pun lebih mengujakan.

4) Maksudnya dia mesti merangka kajian yang bertemakan social networking. Untuk mempermudah kerja, dia pilih medium yang laju (online social networking) dan yang popular serta pervasive (Facebook. Duhhh.).

Setelah membuat sedikit preliminary reading dan menimbang-nimbang beberapa tajuk yang mungkin (dengan cara berangan-angan ketika majlis makan-makan kelas tahfiz Al-Amin), dia memilih topik "historical consciousness" sebagai subjek kajian. Tak lama lagi, Facebook friends dia akan diganggu dengan survey questionnaire-nya. Tak kiralah mereka/anda suka sejarah, benci sejarah, ataupun don't give a damn about history. This is exactly what historical consciousness is about.

_______________________________

*Like last sem, we had to compile data about certain people or things related to the Ayyubid and Mamluk periods. I had to put together information (essay form, but 5 pages max! I suffocated.) on the emirs of Homs (and Hamah, too, actually, but the 5-page limit forced me to choose just one) -- okay my room mate just popped in to give me a steaming bowl of tomato soup ooh. Just the thing for this awfully cold weather. I'm not a polar bear, I hate cold weather. It rained cats and dogs before Maghrib, and the wind was so chilly [it was blowing in through the air vents] I didn't even want to get off the bed and out of the blanket, let alone step outside my room!) -- right. What was I saying?

Oh finding out facts about the Ayyubid emirs of Homs. So, I was looking up the death of one of them, Nasiruddin Muhammad. 

Humphreys says this:

 

Al-Maqrizi says this:


Hello no mention of alcohol here. Humphreys' "apparently from an excess of wine" doesn't seem so apparent now (well he didn't even mention where he got that information from. Or I was the one who couldn't see where his references were) So did he die of alcohol poisoning or not? I mean, it matters. If you die of too much wine, that's bad enough. If you're a ruler/governor/statesman of some kind and you die of too much wine, that's really bad. Even if you're a non-Muslim. And this man was a Muslim, one of Salahuddin al-Ayyubi's foremost lieutenants, and a relative of his (the Ayyubid dynasty was formed upon a system of confederate "iqta's"/roughly, "estates", with the power of governance divided among the Sultan's brothers or cousins). But then again, drinking alcohol is not that alien for *some* Muslim rulers of the past... Plus, keeping an open mind (because sometimes being objective is really difficult. History student or not, you take sides. So the least you can do is be open to possibilities) is like, a huge part of doing research.

But I couldn't find any other references about his cause of death anywhere else (I was compiling this paper the night before the submission deadline -- surprise, surprise -- so there was no time to look elsewhere anyway!)...so I had to settle for only putting in the date of his death, about which Humphreys agreed with al-Maqrizi.

Until today, I haven't been able to resolve this question (dare I say "sebab tak sempat cari"?) And no, Google doesn't know everything (I found this out when doing library research for my history assignments, and I find it so...comforting. As if Google's "ignorance" allows my pursuit of a university education to still be relevant).

Do you also geek out over long-dead people's lives [and deaths]? (It's alright, you don't have to.)

Mesti ingat, mesti buat

2 comments
Adakah anda orang yang gemar menampal peringatan/kata-kata dorongan/senarai tugasan/matlamat-matlamat di dinding atau soft board anda? Misalnya, kalau anda pelajar universiti, mungkin anda tampal besar-besar senarai subjek yang diambil berserta angka 4.00 di sebelah semua subjek tersebut. Lebih terpuji, ada yang meletakkan senarai amalan sunat harian yang dimestikan ke atas diri sendiri. Mungkin juga anda letakkan target penurunan/penambahan berat badan. Seorang room mate dia dahulu, melukis gambar kubur dan menulis di bawahnya "Di sinilah tempat aku kembali nanti". Lagi, ramai juga yang menampal target-target hidup (25 tahun: graduate; 26 tahun: nikah; 30 tahun: umrah). Ada orang yang tiap-tiap hari menukar nota Post-It "To do list" mereka.

Atau, adakah anda suka soft board anda dibiarkan kosong (yang ada mungkin kupon piza; random keychains pemberian orang yang tak tahu di mana lagi mahu diletakkan kerana kunci cuma ada dua set: kunci rumah dan kunci mahallah sedangkan keychains sudah berbelas-belas; dan kerongsang tudung tinggalan kawan-kawan anda yang suka meninggalkan kerongsang di bilik anda) kerana anda berpendapat bahawa motivasi dan peringatan ialah perkara peribadi. Lagipun anda paranoid, tak mahu orang tahu apa yang sedang anda fikir, rancang, atau risaukan.

Dia termasuk dalam kategori kedua.

Tapi kadang-kadang, perbuatan mengumumkan matlamat dan peringatan diri sendiri boleh menggesa kita untuk bersungguh-sungguh memenuhi perkara-perkara tersebut.

Maka hari ini, dia dare to publicize (sedikit).

Dalam perkataan lain, kalaulah dia jenis yang menulis di soft board, beginilah rupa peringatan di soft board-nya:

1) Don't lose more than 5 marks for carry marks OF ALL SUBJECTS from now on. Okay too much. At least get 50/60 FOR EACH SUBJECT.

2) That means:
    a) minimize daydreaming during lectures
    b) update lecture notes, at least once a week
    c) stop your stupid begin-revising-the-night-before-the-test habit because you know you can do better than that
    d) haunt the library. (But not the leisure reading section or the TV area.)  

3) You have enough clothes already (don't buy any more tops just because "it's really pretty and it's on sale")

4) Buy formal shoes -- maybe dark grey Mary Janes. Are MJ's formal? Whatever, get dark grey Mary Janes.

5) Read more, read seriously. Are you a history student or what?

6) Write letters more.

7) Blog more regularly. Ask questions, answer them; share experiences; show/tell others about the interesting people you meet; think aloud; record the good things and the useful things that happen to you; be careful, don't reveal too much, this is the Internet; but if it's a good thing, don't be afraid to hit "publish".

8) Don't get any grade lower than A. To achieve this, refer to #1.

9) You won't be able to raise your CGPA if you don't fulfill #8.

10) People don't die of low grades. Their hearts just break from regrets.

Dia pelajar santai (nota tak pernah lengkap, tak melazimi bacaan serius harian, malam sebelum exam baru nak tidur dengan bahan bacaan), sebab itulah mesti diingatkan bahawa gred A hanya boleh diraih melalui sifat istiqamah. Sebab itulah public(-ized) self reminder ini di-overload dengan perihal pelajaran. Lagipun, esok semester pendek bermula (kelas English for Occupational Purposes jam 8:30-11:30, English for Academic Writing jam 2-4!), dan semua orang tahu bahawa semester pendek ibarat roller coaster -- sekejap sahaja berlalu dan habis, sakit kepala sedikit sebanyak sepanjang perjalanan, kerap kali rasa ingin menjerit -- kalau tak diingatkan akan kepayahannya dari awal, nescaya lalailah pelajar-pelajar santai se-UIA.

Dyeing helps me relax, too

0 comments
My brain went into overdrive while answering Thursday's Islah & Tajdid paper. First question totally threw me off: Discuss the main features of Al-Ghazali's views on philosophy [14 marks]. I was all, "What, you mean I have to give specifics? Fourteen marks?" I allowed myself one round of heavy sigh, inward groan, and an eye roll, and moved on to the next two questions. (This has been my modus operandi since I sat for exams in primary school -- wait I think we had exams in kindergarten, so okay, my MO since kindergarten -- if you no idea what a question wants straightaway after reading it, skip to the next question. Don't waste your time mourning over that topic you didn't revise. My general motto in life -- regarding the past -- is don't cry over spilt milk; mop it up and pour yourself some more, or drink something else if there's no more milk to be had).

Still, after "Giv(ing) a comparative analysis of the careers and thoughts of Ibn 'Abdul Wahhab and Shah Waliullah (Dehlavi) [12 marks]", and "Describ(ing) the career and thought of (Muhammad Iqbal (1877-1983) in the Muslim world [12 marks]", I forced myself to recall Al-Ghazali's ideas on philosophy (bother, bother, bother!). Background of his times, the Mu'tazilism-Al-Ma'mun thing, the whole Nizamiyyah schools yarn, the Islamic Golden Age trend of rational thinking, too much thinking, admiration for Hellenic philosophy, how the great shaykh trumped neo-Platonic philosophy forever with his arguments (which I described really vaguely), his period of disenchantment with philosophy-'Ilm al-Kalam, etc etc. Threw in some description of the Ihya' Ulumuddin, explained how it reflected his approach towards knowledge, etc... ya Allah. That doesn't seem like I actually discussed the main features of his views on philosophy, does it?

Naaah.

Anyway, to console myself after that paper, I spent the entire evening and night dyeing some fabric I'd brought along to campus for de-stressing purposes. 2 meters of white cotton were cut into three pieces (unequal sizes), and dyed into blue, pink, and light purple. Then I changed my mind and cut the now-blue piece into two and put it into the pink dye to make it purple. I hate blue and purple (which doesn't mean true hate, but that on a list of most-liked colours, they're at the bottom. They're nice colours by themselves, but rather flat I think), I'm still not sure why I bought those shades.


Splotchy dye job.
Wear long gloves unless you want to dye your hands as well, like I did. I went through three pairs of latex gloves, which were no help at all because the hot dye-water kept filling them in when I sloshed the fabric around in the pail.

The colours aren't as bold as I'd like them to be, though, so that means another round of dyeing later. 

I don't know what it is about exams that make me suddenly hate reading the materials I need to be reading for the exam. Yesterday I was supposed to prepare for today's Bahasa Melayu Kerjaya paper, but all of a sudden, Kak Ely's Philosophy of Religion (or whatever that subject is) notes seemed far more interesting than the BM book. I even (happily and willingly!) read through her notes about Al-Ghazali's ideas on causality (don't ask), although I've had a nightmare with that topic only the day before in a History paper! And her notes were what I'd call boring under normal circumstances -- they (Comparative Religion students) actually have to study Hume and Kant and all those thinkers. Ugh. But last night those subjects were like Harry Potter compared to my Bahasa Melayu book.

Bahasa Melayu Kerjaya is actually rather interesting. Practical is the word. Ridiculous workload: contact hours:  credit hours: exam time ratio, but useful subject. This morning before the exam, I crammed down all the gelaran Diraja and gelaran kurniaan (Yang Berhormat for elected MPs or State Reps; Yang Berbahagia for the PM, DPM and Menteri Besars; Yang Berbahagia for non-elected people who work in the civil service, yadda yadda) details for the Protokol Majlis topic. One of the questions wanted us to prepare the introductory remarks for the Rector's speech in a majlis, that, get this...disempurnakan oleh Tengku Mahkota Pahang. Have you ever written a speech that addresses the Malay royals? Have you? I thought not. See, Bahasa Melayu Kerjaya is very useful.

Did you know that the Raja Muda/Tengku Mahkotas of the different negeris have to be addressed differently? The Sultans, too. And before this I didn't know that when a royal is in the audience, you have to -- after memohon sembah beribu-ribu ampun, menjunjung kasih Kebawah Duli Yang Teramat Mulia Tuanku (this being the proper gelaran for the Raja Muda of Kelantan and Pahang only) kerana berkenan mencemar duli... -- ask the Sultan/Tengku Mahkota's consent to address the rest of the audience? That means the Sultan/Tengku Mahkota acts like an observer throughout your speech. I'm sorry am I making sense?  You didn't have to read all that. But it's really interesting, honestly.

On a happier note, I'm now done with my minor courses (with the Communication Law & Ethics paper over last week), and also with the Bahasa Melayu subjects. After this, I have 7 history subjects + 2 English subjects (university requirement courses) to go, and then, by the end of January 2013 Insha Allah, I'll be done with my undergraduate life here. Rabbi yassir wa la tu'assir, Rabbi tammim bilkhayr!

P.S.: Next up: Indonesian History from 1500 C.E., History of the Ayyubids & Mamluks, and Colonialism in the Muslim World. Now we're talkin'!

P.P.S.: I always seem to have more time for blogging during the exam weeks.

Sewing for sanity

4 comments
Esei panjang lagi. (What? Don't look at me like that.) 

Bahagian I (Pernyataan masalah): Perlukah belajar tinggi-tinggi? Perlukah berkerjaya? Cabaran perempuan alaf ke-21.

Anda ada cita-cita? Contohnya, "Saya mahu tanam buah pic di belakang rumah dan menjaga pokok tersebut sehingga mendapat hasil. Kemudian, saya akan menjual buah-buah pic tanaman saya kepada orang kampung". 

Bagus. Manusia normal perlukan cita-cita. Tapi, pernahkah anda berasa terlampau terbeban dengan cita-cita sendiri, sehingga mahu lupakan saja impian anda? Contohnya, "Susah pulak jaga pokok pic. Tanam pisang sudahlah. Pisang goreng lebih dikenali, lebih komersil, lebih marketable. Lagipun orang kampung ini tak gemarkan buah pic". Dan akhirnya cita-cita anda terkubur di belakang rumah.

Pisang lebih marketable berbanding pic?
BBA (atau undang-undang) lebih marketable daripada History? *wink wink*

Cita-cita dia tak banyak. (Rasanya cita-cita tak perlu banyak; cukuplah kalau boleh memandu usaha kita sehari-harian.) Dia pun ada impian. Sejak usia 16 tahun, dia telah meletakkan matlamat untuk mendalami Hebrew/Jewish studies di universiti.

What studies? (Rasa macam tak considerate pulak kalau tak letak subtitle dalam post panjang)

Bila orang tanya kenapa Jewish studies, dia selalu terdiam dan sekadar menawarkan jawapan ringkas "Sebab minat". Bukan sebab tak tahu jawapan, tapi sebab jawapan sebenarnya terlalu panjang, iaitu seperti yang berikut:

This is what I want to do because:

[1] Personally, I think Jews are fascinating; 
[2] I think it's important to learn about the Jews from the Jewish worldview;
[3] Judaism and Islam have had a long history together, but I know so little about Judaism. Experts on Islamic history, we have quite a number already. But Muslims who specialize in Jewish history? Come on!
[4] I think Jews will play a major role (or, since they already are doing that now, an even greater role) in the administration/politics/global engineering of everything on Planet Earth in the near future, so we'll need people with qualified knowledge about them to help ourselves deal with them;
[5] I need an excuse to learn another language;
[6] I enjoy doing things that other people don't do;
[7] I have to see other places. There's no chance of doing Jewish studies in Malaysia, so this is one solid reason for finally going overseas;
[8] A lot of what I've heard about Jews are linked to conspiracy theories, but I have no idea about how to find out what is true and what isn't;
[9] I've heard so much about the Jews, but have never met one in my life (refer to #1);
[10] I look forward to hearing "You're studying what?!" and "Why would anyone want to study that?" again after this, harhar;
[11] Curiousity about The Other, Them. I want a first-hand experience. At the tangible and intangible sources for Jewish history and civilization. (I'm a history student, I swoon over old and ancient stuff). And I want to be able to understand when I see them.
[12] So that I can help Muslims understand Judaism and the Jews better, insha Allah;
[13] I want to learn something new. New is good.
[14] I'm bored (Is this the same as #13?);
[15] I really need to specialize in one civilization/culture/period. As of now, I'm taking in too much information about so many eras and cultures, but am digesting too little.
[16] Fardhu kifayah.

Kesimpulannya, kerana dia minat, rasa perlu, dan rasa mampu.

Prof. Khoo kata, "Studying history is not about saying 'this is right' or 'this is wrong'. That is not the job of historians. Your primary job is to find out what really happened." Tapi bagi dia, untuk mengambil pengajaran daripada kejadian-kejadian lalu, kita harus faham apa yang hak dan apa yang  tidak hak. Dan memang Profesor Khoo sendiri selalu ingatkan, tujuan kita belajar sejarah adalah untuk mengambil pengajaran untuk masa hadapan. Tak mengapa. Yang jelas, tanggungjawab ahli sejarah profesional adalah untuk memastikan dahulu apa yang sahih; perihal menilai itu, tanggungjawab bersama masyarakat.

Sebagai sejarawan, dia mesti objektif. Sebagai manusia, dia mesti berprinsip. Sebagai Muslim, mesti kenal apa yang hak dan apa yang batil. Pandai-pandailah gabungkan semuanya.

Takut! 

Rasa seperti takkan boleh bahagia kalau impian yang satu ini terkandas. Ibarat Rapunzel yang tak dapat bebas dari menara kurungan, hari-hari tengok rumput dan tanah dari jauh. Ibarat pungguk rindukan bulan di Kutub Utara di musim siang. Ibarat cinta yang tak kesampaian, malah lebih mengecewakan. Cita-cita ini sudah menjadi sebahagian penting daripada diri dia. Sehingga menakutkan dirinya sendiri...ibarat takut tanaman pic takkan pernah menjadi!

Tolonglah doakan kejayaan dia untuk mencapai cita-cita ini (jika ini haluan yang terbaik). Dan kalau ini bukan jalan terbaik, supaya dia menemui jalan yang lebih baik dan jauh lebih baik. Allah Maha Tahu.

Malangnya, setelah lelah membuat assignments, bacaan dan kajian saban hari, kadang-kadang terfikir untuk menghentikan sahaja impian-impian lalu, lantaklah. Hilang percaya pada kesanggupan diri sendiri.

Dan pada masa-masa kepenatan seperti ini, pasti dia mengadu kepada Iimaan, ataupun sesiapa yang kebetulan melepak bersama-sama.

"Iimaan. Kita rasa macam tak nak sambung belajarlah. Nak buat ape sambung belajar. Kalau sambung belajar kita boleh buat ape? Kalau sambung belajar, nanti kita kena mengajar. Mesti kita rasa kita kena (perlu) mengajar, kalau tak, sia-sia jelah belajar tinggi-tinggi. Mana boleh belajar banyak-banyak tapi tak sampaikan. Tapi kita tak nak kerja. Alaaa tak nak kerjaaaaaa, penatlah. Nanti balik rumah lewat malamlah, bawak kerja balik rumahlah. Tapi kita nanti mesti bosan kalau tak sambung belajar." Dan seterusnya, dan seterusnya.

Iimaan pun melayan sahaja. "Hah. Habis tu awak nak buat ape? Nak jahit baju?"

"Ha ah boleh jugak. Hee bestnya kan, design barang, jahit. Eh tapi nanti kita mesti bosan. Hari-hari menjahit je. Mesti kita nak belajar jugak."

"Habis tu macamana?"

"Lepas tu jual kuih kat depan rumah ke. Bestnya. Tapi kena cari rumah yang kat tempat strategik ah kan. Heh bestnya jual kuih, macam Kak Ina dengan Auni hari tu." Diam. "Eh tapi nanti mesti kita rasa bosan kan? Tapi betul ke kita nak sambung belajar? Kita tak nakla buat PhD, nak buat ape. Nanti orang panggil kita Doktor, entah apa-apa je. Kadang-kadang bila fikir balik, kita rasa macam dah tak nak sambung lagi."

Iimaan sudah menampakkan kerisauan. "Ish. Betul ke. Habis apa yang awak nak?"

"Taktaula Iimaan. Kena istikharah lagi."

Sekarang Iimaan selalu memberi nasihat positif. Kadang-kadang, tengah senyap-senyap melepak/makan/belajar tiba-tiba Iimaan cakap, "Kita rasa awak kena jugak belajar lagi. Mak kita pun kata, perlu. Sebab kalau awak belajar, nanti awak boleh ajar kat orang lain pulak." Kawan-kawan lain pun begitu. Hilda, course-mate yang cuma dikenali dari kelas Usul Fiqh pernah menyapa  dia di tengah jalan: "Hari tu I was talking with my lecturer pasal your plans nak buat Jewish studies tu...and she said, betul jugak, we need people to study those things..."

Terima kasih sahabat! You believe in me more than I believe in myself. 

9 to 5 jobs (7 to 7, actually, if you consider all that commuting etc): my ultimate nightmare.

Ini bukan setakat krisis peribadi dia, atau Iimaan, atau kak Solehah, atau kak Seri, atau Nisa', juga kawan-kawannya yang lain [yang semuanya pernah menyatakan keinginan untuk bebas memilih antara berkerjaya dan tidak berkerjaya. Hakikatnya kebebasan pilihan ini tertakluk pada keadaan masing-masing kan?]. Dilema ini pernah juga disuarakan oleh seorang sister jurusan Bahasa Arab dari BosniaKatanya: "Muslimah(s) today are so confused. To work  or not to work? To further our studies or not?" Kami perlukan nasihat orang-orang yang lebih tahu!

Kami mahu jadi manusia berguna. Tapi adakah kami lebih berguna jika berprofesion, atau lebih berguna sebagai stay-at-home-wives/mothers? (And you know what, kalau tak berkeluarga pun, tak mahulah kerja yang keluar pagi balik petang.) Sebab kalau anda belum perasanlah, sangat susah untuk seimbangkan kerjaya dan keluarga, apatah lagi untuk orang perempuan yang banyak tuntutan di rumah. Dia tahu, Mak-Mak kita banyak yang bekerja, boleh saja survive. Mak dia juga. Tapi kelegaan Mak bila akhirnya berhenti kerja setahun yang lepas, tak dapat digambarkan dengan kata-kata. That said, pasti bosan kalau tak bekerja langsung. Sumpah bosan. Serabut betul.

Tapi rasa bertanggungjawab untuk mencari dan menyampaikan ilmu asing selalu menghantui! Mungkin disebabkan proses menimba ilmu yang sangat addictive. Kerana lebih banyak kita belajar, pasti kita lebih sedar betapa banyaknya lagi yang kita jahil.

(Yang sebenarnya, tekanan membawa kepada putus asa. Hilang tekanan, hilanglah putus asa.)

Kesimpulannya, (1) Jangan biarkan stres membelenggu hidup anda (2) Carilah cara yang sesuai untuk melepaskan tekanan (3) Kita perlukan sahabat (4) Dia masih keliru (5) Semoga Allah menunjukkan jalan yang terbaik untuk masa hadapan kita semua.

Bahagian II (Design bag, make bag, feel good): Hobi itu penting.

Warning:


Intense sewing and needle-work talk and photos all the way from here. If you are not interested in sewing, fabrics, bags, or detailed descriptions about sewing failures and fabric/sewing-notion prices, don't bother scrolling down. I'm sure other people have updated their blog recently, too, (with far more interesting stories). Might as well close this tab now. Go.

But in case you're wondering what this bag story has to do with all that "Oh no my dreams are terrifying me" drama: Well, because, the whole bag-designing and -making experience was challenging and very satisfying, helped me calm down, take a mental break from my studies, regain my senses, and most importantly, ditch any thoughts about giving up my dreams. It made me realize that I shouldn't start second-guessing my own plans just because I was so sick of reading and stressed out from research and work. The situation was simple: I was spent, and badly needed a creative release. In other words, this is how I relax.

Now you can close the tab.
_____________________________________________________


(My not yet finished) 2-in-1 watermelon laptop/book bag
Except that at the moment I don't have a laptop to put in it because mine is being checked/repaired. The screen died.

Why I made it: I had bought myself some thick, sunshiny yellow cotton (in the form of a pair of jeans from the bundle shop) a couple of months back. The colour was so cheerful, I just had to take it, only I didn't know what exactly I was going to do with it [I bought it for the fabric, not to wear it]. After staring at it for some time and mulling over my options, I thought: Yellow watermelon! I need a bag for my laptop! I'm itching to make something! Make a watermelon laptop bag! So many exclamation marks.

And so the yellow/red watermelon laptop bag was born. (Yellow to match my yellow rubber flats and red to match my red canvas wedges. Okay not really. I just happen to have a pair each of yellow and red shoes. Watermelon colours.) My point is, this is like a 2 styles-in-1 bag. One side yellow, one side red. Wear either colour to match my outfit or mood.

I measured my laptop, did a lot of drafting on brown paper, and finalized my design along the way (basically a tote shaped like a slice/wedge of watermelon -- thicker at the base, thinner near the zipper -- padded lining with partition, recessed zipper, non-adjustable straps. Just your basic tote, really). Had the pattern ready in a couple of days, with the aid of a variety of bowls and round-edged trays to shape the watermelon.

A couple of weeks of fabric-hunting followed. I had a stash of fabrics waiting to be made into bags, but I still needed to get some red and green ones for the watermelon. Eventually I found the red and two shades of green that I wanted for a bargain (more on this below).




(a) Outer body yellow side (b) Outer body red side. My mother said that this isn't the right colour for a watermelon, because watermelon red is different, pinkish really. But I don't think I can be happy carrying around a pink bag, so although this shade of red is a bit too strong for a watermelon, I chose it over the deep pink fabric I had. (c) Lining/the actual body of the bag. I sewed the straps to the body (and will sew them to meet at the bottom) to strengthen the bag.



Yellow half, lining stuffed into the outer layer for show here. Yep, they still need to be sewn together but that's not going to happen until I get hold of a sewing machine. Which means when I'm done with the exams and get back home. (1) Watermelon skin stripe detail (2) I wanted to use buttons for the seeds (because who wants to spend their time embroidering watermelon seeds, really), but I couldn't find any seed/teardrop-shaped buttons anywhere. So embroidery it is after all. I embroidered the seeds using regular DMC floss, 2 strands for the padding, and one strand for the final satin stitch
(3) & (4) More details.


Red half. (5) The striped part of the rind is supposed to be the sides of the bag (7) The dark grey material was too dark to be friendly with the red one, so I had to use off-white floss for the seeds and heavy white cotton for the eaten-out void because white contrasts much better with the red 
(6) & (8) So much top-stitching, so much fun.



(9) Recessed zipper: I used a larger-than-normal zipper, not like the regular ones you'd sew on to garments. Cost me about RM6, I think (at Haby & Wools, Ampang Park. God knows how often I haunt that place). I haven't finished this part -- see the basting there? -- it needs to be attached to the outer watermelon thing. (10) Every seam and every allowance had to be marked so that no stupid, frustrating mistakes will happen from start to finish. Of course I still had quite a few "Oops" moments, but they were manageable, thanks to all that pain-in-the-neck tracing-wheeling and triple-checking I did before I cut out the pieces. Alhamdulillah. (11) Lined right up to the zipper. (12) Oh and I had to quilt the inside pieces first (and the padding was recycled from an old mattress cover, so I had to wash, bleach, dry, and unpick the original quilt before I get to use the padding. I get tired all over again just by remembering the whole process) before actually assembling them together. (13) The partition, to separate the laptop from its charger et al. I didn't make a restraining strap to hold the laptop in place, nor did I make ANY pockets, 'cos even without the pockets and straps, it was already a very involved project, and I just couldn't bring myself to even think about drafting, cutting out, and sewing any more pieces.


The inside story: (14) & (18) This is how the back of a satin-stitched thing looks like. 
(15) & (19) The bitten part. (16) & (17) Clipped curves. 


More bag talk:

(1) Cost

a) The quilt padding, like I said, was recycled. So no cost there. Just doing one batch of laundry plus hours of unpicking quilt stitches to get rid of the old outer quilt material. But it felt really good because I get to re-use the thing.

b) And the best part of making this bag is...the red, yellow and both green materials were all upcycled from pants (jeans? Jeans can be not blue, right? Right?) I bought from bundle shops. The pants cost me RM5 each at the Friday pasar malam at Bandar Bukit Mahkota, except for the yellow one (RM10 I think), which I got from a bundle shop in Bandar Baru Bangi, section 15. 

I am usually rather apprehensive about using old stuff to make new ones (because fabrics, especially, wear out, and lose their weight/texture/nice finish), but jeans material is very hard-wearing, and I'm seeing great results with my first try here. Heavy cotton make the best bag material (I think, because I like my stuff to be sturdy but washable), but the good ones are usually quite expensive (around RM20-40 per meter), and even so, finding the right colours is another headache [and I'm very picky with my colours and fabrics]. So I'm happy to say that from now on, I'll definitely use second-hand jeans to make bags again. The bundle shops sell so many colours! On top of that, most of them are skinny jeans, or very low-cut ones, so I like to think that they're better off being bags rather than pants that don't really cover people's awrah.

[And as much as possible, I choose the ones that look the newest.]

And after taking what I need from the trousers for this bag, I still have about half-a-jeans remaining for each colour.

c) The material for the lining is some sort of light linen/cotton (I'm a fan of naturals) that I bought for RM4 per meter, which is a very happy price;

d) But the dark-grey cotton I used for the straps, zipper panels, and bitten out void (for the yellow side) cost RM25.90 per meter (MINNA fabric from IKEA). I probably used up at least half a meter of the dark grey for all of that [so around RM13].

e) The white material used for the bitten out space (for the red watermelon) is also MINNA, but it's not like I used even a quarter of a meter for that part. Just several inches square, really.

f) Threads and embroidery flosses in all, maybe RM10. 

Overall, I think it's a reasonably-priced project, and could be even cheaper if I'd used recycled materials for the dark grey and white parts (or maybe even the entire bag!).

(2) Postscript

I wish I could do a tutorial on this, but since I took no pictures along the way, I don't think I can do one properly. The steps are way too many, anyway!

If anyone is thinking about making a bag like this, here's a tip: If you want a quicker bag, just paint a watermelon on a piece of heavy fabric! I find applique-ing and patchworking the watermelon therapeutic, but it takes a lot of time, precision, and patience.


Painting will probably be cheaper, too (but I'm not really sure). Because if you use Dylon fabric paint, that'll cost around RM10 per paint tube/colour, which is quite a lot, especially if you want multiple coats of paint to make the image really stand out. The Dylon 3D paint (also around RM10 per tube) would be perfect for the seeds (I considered this, and even bought a tube, but I imagined people -- me, mostly -- digging my fingernails in the shiny, rubbery 3D seeds later on, so I chose to embroider them instead). Use other brands of fabric paint for cheaper options.

Gotta study for the exams now.

Contengan di meja perpustakaan

2 comments
I've just noticed these scribbles on one of the library's study tables (the ones that look like boxes with walls on three sides and allows you to have some privacy from your neighbours). So entertaining. FYI most of the tables here aren't vandalized so if you were just about to say (what's wrong with UIA people, don't they have any civic awareness, aren't they supposed to be an Islamic university?...Stop thinking already). 

I won't justify their graffiti-ing of public furniture, but their words do make me stop for a bit and think about (student) life. The scribbles are so random and so deliberate.

The previous table:
I HATE CALCULUS!!

This table:
On the shelf ledge:
DON'T LEAVE BOOK. (Which is the scribbler's version of the library notice "Do not leave library materials and personal belongings on the reading table. Thank you.")


On the right-hand side table wall (In no particular order. The scribbles are all over the place. Some doodles, too.):

I (heart shape) IIUM. Responses to this scribble:
- good joke LOL
- NUTS!
- average :P
- tipu
- BURN IN HELL
- F.U
- you can't be serious!
- (In Arabic) Muhammad Ayyan
- (In Arabic) Muhammad Ahmad

DID YOU REALIZED THAT OUR DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER (NAJIB) WAS ACTUALLY INVOLVED IN ALTANTUYA'S DEAD? WHAT A SHAME!
-  actually it was his wife who asked her bodyguard 2 kill altantuya!
   - Rosmah
   - Altantuya seduced her hubby!!
     - But Y does d idiot Abdul Razak B. let himself being accused Idiotic
   - ERM QUESTION..HOW ARE THEY NOW?
     - main source INTERNET!

There's another scribble (plus responses), but they're so inappropriate, I'm not going to repeat them here. I seriously think they wrote that down just for shock value. Too bored with their textbooks probably. If you want to see them come to the UIA library, level 2, sisters' section. It's the 8th table from the left against the wall at the sisters' end. But of course there're a thousand more useful things you can do at the library.

On the left-hand side wall (this looks like the heartbreak wall):

(In red ballpoint ink) 11/04/2011 I miss him

I HATE MEN
- I miss Memdhoo

I miss my family
- I miss my family too :(
  - I want to go HOME!
    - I miss my mom and daddy at home
    - Mis my mom's cooking =|
      - I miss everything at home!!

The guy I like ^_^ He likes my friend 8-02-2011 V_V
- I was backstabbed

(In black ink) Don't write on public properties
- thank you
- shut up
- you also write
  - tau xpe

Good luck for Everyone :)

I study smart!

I (heart shape) GOD!

I love you...

Gerdim seni bir kere
Baskasini sevemem
Deli diyorlar bana
Desinler degisemem...
- UIA intnet system r very BAD!! kdekot!

IIUM @ UIA KIKIS DUIT!
- org dh bg ilmu bising lak die...

Guys are so stupid don't believe them!

Does love exist?
- no no no
- NO
- No No No
- NO Don't believe in love
- Yes, coz I'm in love!
- If exist where is it?

This is nonsense!! Get a life!!
- Good

Money is important without money you can't life

I wana b dean list

And on the wall right in front of me:
....in the rain? u'r in pain, screaming so loud. n no 1 can hear u! (The rest of the scribbles have been obscured by a new library sign that warns us not to leave our stuff on the table unsupervised.)
- ...& scream in the rain u just want to blame others 4 ur pain
- what a looser!!!

please don't write anything on this table
- You also did it!!!

What are you doing? STUDY!!

Actually this feels a bit like reading your newsfeed on Facebook (someone posts something random and not particularly useful - on their wall or on someone else's wall - and then the comments go on and on and on).

UIA is in revision period and approaching the exam weeks now. Again.

P.S.: Prepare well and answer the questions wisely, everyone!


P.P.S.: If you have no idea what the question wants, make up your own answers (using your common sense). I do it all the time [whenever necessary]. I just did that for a quiz two days ago. I made up answers for the entire quiz (and prayed that I'd get some points for trying!). The questions were so precise (which means they were taken from parts of the texts that no one read), but everyone was so used to precise questions (and not knowing what to answer) so we came out from the quiz cheerfully anyway.

P.P.P.S.: Get enough rest. Don't ever attempt to enter an exam hall if your head is heavy from sleep deprivation. That's like mental suicide.

P.P.P.P.S.: Try a short nap after every revision session. My mother told me that sleep helps to (somehow) strengthen your memory. I have no idea how scientific this is, but it works.

P.P.P.P.P.S.: Read and revise everything. Or else don't exit the exam hall complaining "Apsal yang aku baca semua tak masuk?".
 
P.P.P.P.P.P.S.: Don't worry too much, it's just the exams. We're Malaysians, kan! How many times have we been through them already?

Some practical advice

1 comments
...from my lecturers. Dikutip sepanjang semester ini.


Professor Khoo (Colonialism in the Muslim World): 

1. Exams are not important, but they are what we call a necessary evil.

2. You cannot be satisfied with general knowledge.

Sarah Chinoy (Niche debate trainer): 
 
3. If you want to contribute to the society, now's (while we're still students) the time. Later, I promise you, you'll either be married to your job, or to a human being.

Professor Kopansky (History of the Ayyubids and Mamluks): 

4. It is better to be friends (not just lovers) with (your spouse). A man can betray a woman, but he will never betray a friend, especially not after he remembers all the good and bad times they'd been through together in the marriage.

5. Don't marry a man who only promises you cinta. He must give you clothes, a roof over your head, whatever you need, and he must make you happy.

Assoc. Prof. Dr Arshad Islam (Islah and Tajdid Movements in the Muslim World): 
 
6. Kurang(kan) makan, kurang(kan) tidur.

Madam Arina Johari (Bahasa Melayu Kerjaya):

7. Dengar betul-betul apa yang saya ajar ni. Jangan pulak nanti masa exam, angkat tangan, panggil saya. Lepas tu bisik kat saya, "Apa ni Madam? Tajuk apa ni? Tak pernah belajar pun?"


Sekian catatan dia untuk kali ini.

Peringatan dakwah daripada Profesor Khoo

0 comments
Sambil mengulang kaji untuk ujian mid-term Colonialism in the Muslim World esok (atau mungkin bukan esok), terjumpa catitan nasihat Profesor Emeritus Khoo Kay Kim di celah-celah cerita sejarah:


[Remember this:]
Islam is for both Muslims and non-Muslims. So when someone comes to you and asks you about Islam, don't say "Mind your own business". You are each of you a mubaligh, you have an obligation to explain to non-Muslims what Islam is all about. Non-Muslims need to understand Islam, so that they can adjust.


Ya Allah, kurniakanlah kami bahagia di dunia dan bahagia di akhirat.

How to speak in public fearlessly

0 comments
I am writing this because it has been "Presentation Week" for the past few weeks in IIUM. I don't mind doing presentations, and most of the time I actually enjoy it, but I know some people positively hate speaking in front of a crowd, no matter how many times they've had done it already. Last week a dear friend asked me, "Macamana nak hilangkan gugup masa presentation ah?" ("How do I deal with my stage fright before presentations?"). I realized then that I could write a whole blog post to answer her question.

Disclaimer:
Before I continue with another 10 or 20 paragraphs of this how-to, you should know this: I am NOT a great public speaker. I don't move my audiences to tears, make them feel like changing into a different person just by listening to my speech, etc. But I'm not afraid of speaking in public, and I know this is the first step towards being a good public speaker.

I don't have a secret to this. I don't enjoy talking, as you might remember, so the same goes for talking in front of many people. But I strangely do not fear it, alhamdulillah. My very first time speaking in public was when I was 11. At the end of my darjah 6 year, a (very garang) teacher at school told me to see her, then told me that I had to tell a story (as a performance, ugh) during the Prize-Giving Day. Mm-hmm. Did I have a choice? Of course not, the teacher in question wasn't the type you dilly-dally around with. She says it, you do it.

So I went along, had to rehearse in front of her (I HATE rehearsing for a public speech of any kind. I speak in public for the one necessary time, which is that time I spend on stage, so no rehearsals-lah please. I avoid rehearsals as much as I possibly can)...and, apprehensive as I was, I did it: Told a story about The Magic Fish in front of the whole school and their parents. Complete with props (like a golden manila fish) and a couple of voice-changes at appropriate moments (big voice for the fisherman, squeaky voice for the fish). That was a landmark event in my life because at that moment I discovered that I don't mind speaking in public.

 Of course this picture has nothing to do with the post.
Just trying to break up the text text text text text.
(I was feeling drowsy in class and needed a bit of sugar rush
and I had a camera in hand so I just snapped a picture, just in case I need 
photographic documentation of (i) me holding a sweet or 
(ii) me falling asleep in class and doing something, anything to wake up
or (iii) maybe I'll need a random photo to use as a text-breaker someday).

So maybe my fearlessness is natural. Actually I'd call it feelingless-ness. Once during my late-teenage years, I received one of those forwarded-texts from a friend, it said (something to this effect): "Describe me in one word. Forward this message to your friends, you'll be surprised at the responses you get". So I replied that SMS and forwarded it to about 20 friends. (Really, you should try this, too, it's very revealing and a form of muhasabah, too, I'd say). The responses I got? Three things: Smart, Calm, and Cat Lover. (I wonder if I'd still get the same answers if I forwarded that text today) The only relevant answer for this post would be CALM. I'm a calm person (most of the time). So what happens when I present topics in class or debate a motion is -- I do it calmly, out of habit.

So is my calmness a product of nature or nurture? I'm sure part of it must have been in me, is who I am, but I also know that I have trained myself not to show what I feel (except through a variety of facial expressions when I feel like it). I value reservedness and self-possession. This I blame on reading too much English (as opposed to American) books since childhood, and on my admiration for Sherlock Holmes. I don't particularly think that the ability to conceal your feelings is a good thing, I just think that it's useful. Anyway, this thing has become a liability for me as public speaker. I don't know how to (or am usually VERY unwilling to, out of habit) let my emotions get through during my speeches.

Told you. My stone face has been there forever. It's not the best thing to have on all occasions, BUT it has helped me enormously in being able to speak in public without my hand shaking, etc. It looks like confidence, but it's just habitual feelingless-ness.

And that is why this post is called "How to speak in public fearlessly", not "How to be an effective public speaker". Two very different things.

(Really good) mango-flavoured ice-cream that I bought
because the MingoMingo shop at Aeon AU2 was closed.
(This was right after our Shawwal gathering last year.)


So how do you stop being scared of speaking in public?

Well to put it shortly, you crush your fears by identifying their reasons, and then putting them out one by one.

But first, remember this: It's all in the mind. You, and nobody else, must believe that you can do it, and do it well.

#1: Ask yourself, "Why am I scared?" 

You may be afraid of speaking in public for many reasons. Identify those reasons. 

Are you afraid that you can never be as good a speaker as this brother or that sister? [You're not them, so stop trying to be them. You have your own strengths, play them up.]

Are you scared of making eye contact with the audience? Are you held back because you think your English (or whatever language) is not proficient enough? Are you afraid you might forget what you need and want to say once you're in front of everyone? Are you scared of what people will think of you?  

Let's face it, most of our fears of public speaking come from imagining the audience's bad reception of our speech. We'll deal with this in tip #3.

Once you know why public speaking scares the wit out of you, you're one step closer to conquering those fears.

#2: Turn the fear around 

Do this by anticipating every possible failure that can happen, and dealing with each one. Prepare yourself well. Nothing conquers fear better than solid preparation. First, master your topic. If you know that there's nothing you don't know about that topic, do you think you'll be afraid of people questioning your speech/presentation's contents? Sure you won't. Okay of course you can't possibly know EVERYthing about anything, but do what it takes to know as much as possible.

Second, deal with your weaknesses realistically. Nobody's perfect so stop comparing yourself to other students/people. Compare yourself with yourself, it'll be healthier for your self-esteem. Improve the weaknesses you have one-by-one, so that your new self will be better than your old self.

For example, if you have problems with speaking fluently in English, try rehearsing the topic in front of a friend you're comfortable with. The aim here is not to perfect your English overnight, but to increase your confidence in using the language skills you already have. Listen to me: perfect language does not make a perfect presenter. I'm saying this because I have listened to MANY friends expressing their awe at the wonderful presentations of their class-mates, and when I ask them "Why are their presentations good?", they tell me, "Because they can speak English confidently." It's OK to admire a person's good language, but remember remember, it isn't everything! So if your English is not as good as theirs, do not think for an instant that you cannot be a good presenter or public speaker. Personally, I have seen numerous awesome presentations, whose presenters did not speak perfect English or Malay. They were still awesome.

Finally, imagine the worst thing that can happen if you flunk the presentation. What, you'll get low grades? Your class-mates will think you're a loser? The lecturer will hate you? I don't think so. Well, actually the worst thing that can happen to any of us in any situation is if Allah hates us. It never is the end of the world unless and until Allah hates us. So let's put the situation in perspective.

Even if, after all your efforts at improving your public speaking skills, you still don't seem to make any difference, that less-than-okay presentation wouldn't have made you a lesser person. There will be other chances at improving, insha Allah. Keep your head up.

#3: The audience are not your judges.

This is easy. Put yourself in the audience's shoes. You were in the audience countless times. You've watched so many of your friends and class-mates presenting. Remember how you felt? Some of them are very good, some of them not as confident. The thing is, you don't really care how good or bad their presentation was, do you? You don't judge them. They were simply another class-mate/group who came forward to share their knowledge about the topic they got from the lecturer. So why on earth would they judge you when you it's you turn to present? No, they wouldn't, really. You're just imagining things.

So loosen up, imagine that all of them are your close friends, and you're just going to tell them about those  shoes you bought at the Jusco sale. And that new tudung whose colour doesn't really match your baju kurung, dammit. Should've just stuck to black outfits. Shopping for matching outfits is real torture.

All right back to public speaking. Your audience are normal people like you, and you're just going to share with them what you'd learned about Mohammad Hatta and his role in Indonesian politics. And now you know that "Bung" Hatta swore not to get married until Indonesia was granted independence, and he fulfilled that promise...a fact that most of your classmates probably don't know yet. So see? You can tell them.

 Cornflakes and very cold Milo, my ultimate comfort food.
This was over a semester ago, when my desk still had some space for a meal.

#4: Visualize the best things happening

Okay. Picture this:
You are 100% prepared. You speak confidently and clearly. Your PowerPoint slides are perfect. You look at the audience as you speak. The audience is eating up your words. They ask you intelligent questions, and you answer them equally intelligently. You finish up on time. They applaud you at the end. You get full marks for your presentation.

All I'm saying is, dream about it! Then make your dream come true. When you visualize yourself in great situations, you can already see yourself making it happen...and that means you're halfway towards realizing it, because you already believe it could happen. It's all in the MIND, remember? 

#5: Be comfortable.

Wear clean, neat, and appropriate clothes that you feel comfortable in. Shoes, too. Don't over-accessorize. This should feel like an everyday thing, not like a my-life-depends-on-these-10-minutes event.

#6: Take control of the room/hall.

This is your presentation, you are the one who will be controlling the flow of events during that 5 or 20 minutes of your turn. Take charge! Once you step up front, look around at all four corners of the lecture hall/wherever the venue is. Let the audience know that you are the one they have to listen to now.  

Are you scared there are people in the audience who are cleverer that you, those people who always seem to know everything about anything? Whatever. You completed this study. You discussed and reviewed that topic with your group members. You learned enough about that subject, so much that you actually made a PowerPoint presentation about it. It's your territory for the next 5 or 20 minutes. Conclusion: you have every right and ability to take control of the audience's attention, and you should.

P.S.: If the lecturer knows more than you do and points out your little mistakes here and there, be happy because that's his/her job.

#7: Criticism is food for improvement

Don't be afraid of criticism. Most of the time after your speech or presentation is over, you'll just return to your seat, no questions from anyone. But occasionally, you'll get a piece or two of advice (or criticism, if you like), from your lecturer or your audience. So what? It won't kill you, and what doesn't kill you will make you stronger. Friedrich Nietzsche said that, and I agree.

If you do get criticized, you'll feel crushed, MOMENTARILY. After that moment, GET UP. Take the criticism as constructive advice, USE IT to improve yourself. And then life will go on as usual.

P.S.: If you've ever debated, you'll learn to get used to it, trust me. We get criticism (positive and negative) after every round. And if it's a silent round (where the judges don't announce the results or give their feedback), you're taught to go find them yourself later, and ASK for criticism. Helps thicken your skin. But I don't really recommend joining debates unless you have plenty of weekends to spare.

So don't let your fear of criticism hold you back. Prevent it from coming at all by preparing well, that's what I say.

I ran out of pictures of yellow food.
These are my newly washed shoes.

#8: Remembrance of Allah calms you down.

This is a no-fail step. Remember Allah through good times, and He will help you through the bad. And if you're scared, or overcome with stage fright jitters, ask Him to make it all right. He will.

Also, don't forget that asking for salawat on the Prophet (SAW) is a tremendous healer of diseases (or symptoms), whether physical, mental, or spiritual. 

I hope this helps! Have fun with your next presentation/public speech!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

All things come to an end

Those last days before the exams! A journal-entry is in order.

Wednesday [19 December 2012]

Day: I felt sluggish the whole day. After US History class (5 pm), I couldn't stop yawning...yawned all the way back to my mahallah, halfway through dinner (only because I decided to just sleep after yawning through the first few mouthfuls).

Night: Received two pleasant surprises in the e-mail, from King's and Manchester. Ayah was not impressed hahah. I'm not worried though, I'm his daughter I don't have to impress him (I just need his approval). Plus, whatever options I have, my priority is to pick the program that offers (1) the most intensive Hebrew lessons -- I am still that girl -- and (2) the best training in Jewish historiography [why do you think I'm in the History department, not Usuluddin/Comparative Religion?]. I need tools, strong ones.

I was relieved because this means that no matter what replies I'd get from UCL, SOAS and Oxford in the next month or so, I would have these two offers as insurance...but honestly I was more concerned about the next day's exam, because I haven't started revising for it at all.

Most of all, it was comforting to know that after, like, seven years of dreaming and planning and waiting, things are actually working out in the right direction. Alhamdulillah 'ala kulli hal wa ni'mah.

(The reply from King's also reminded me how I'd made an embarrassing error in the personal statement I sent them -- I'd mentioned UCL instead of King's in one of my sentences! -- but I guess the MA Convenor and whoever else it was that read my statement very kindly ignored that goof. My face burns just thinking about that stupid, stupid mistake.)

I forced myself to read up for the exam. Another delayed bedtime.

Thursday [20 December 2012] 

This was the last day of lectures...the last ever for my undergraduate years! I spent it like any regular lecture day, attended classes from 10 am to 12.50...

...except that at 3 pm, we sat for our first final exam paper -- for Rise and Fall of Civilizations. I was not super-prepared for the topics that came out in the questions, but overall I enjoyed the exam. Alhamdulillah. I am still not sure whether the second question meant ALL the Hebrew prophets or just the ones after the destruction of the Temple, but I focused 80% of my essay on the classical prophets, and only discussed the Patriarchs in one paragraph. Totally left out Moses and Solomon...deliberately. Allahu a'lam. Let the lecturer judge my judgment.

Really, the things you second-guess once an exam is over! (Once after the Ayyubids and Mamluks exam, I worried about my interpretation of a preposition in the question. It said "achievements in the military field", and I was horrified because while answering the question, I thought it said "achievements on the military field". I mean, did it mean the actual battleground or the more general military field? Oh forget it).

After the exam, I met up with Iimaan. She gave me a bag...the Human Sciences canvas tote I'd wanted so much!


Terima kasih Iimaan. Just what I wanted :)

9 pm: Night out with my History sisters, we had dinner at the place across the kubur. I (We) ate pulut mangga (awesome), seafood goreng (in a sizzling plate), kerang rebus, cendol (the one at KLCC food court is way tastier), several varieties of Secret Recipe cakes (I don't understand cheesecakes), kerabu mangga, sotong goreng tepung (they should've called it tepung goreng sotong), kangkung goreng, a bit of tomyam, daging goreng merah...and looked at the kailan goreng, udang goreng tepung, steamed siakap and rice.

Is this my first time blogging about what I had for dinner? I know I wrote about food before, but full dinner menus? Anyway, nobody bothered to take photos of the food.

Back at the mahallah, began compiling the video on the Blackfoot tribes around midnight.


Friday [21 December 2012]

Finished rendering the video around Fajr (U-Lead only crashed once! Alhamdulillah), but the format I chose made a really low-def video, so I re-rendered the thing as HD. Waiting for videos to render is really boring so I got me some sleep first. Fancy HD (widescreen) format distorted the subtitles, though, so I re-rendered it into a different setting when I woke up at 8:30 (or was it 9?). Typed a couple more paragraphs about President Wilson's New Freedom campaign and his illness and death, concluded the biography, put in the references, done with the paper.

10:30 am: Walked to library, unloaded two bagfuls of books into the After Hours Book Drop hole-in-the-library-wall. Went to HS building.

Dropped the CD with (a) a PDF of Woodrow Wilson's biography and (b) a video assignment on the Blackfoot Nation in Prof. Kopanski's door-box -- those were my last assignments as an undergraduate!

11:30-ishNisa' and I went to see Dr. Wan Suhana for consultation about our performance in her courses (plus a few other things).

[Oh and I've just checked the marks for my Islam in Modern SEA open book test ugh. Now getting A would be (not impossible, but) rather difficult. Still within reach, though (I can only afford to lose 3 points in the final exam!!!). I'm a ray of sunshine.]

Noon: I called Dr. Hafiz to see if I could pick up my paper on Egyptian Jewry at his office...but he was in a rush to attend a meeting so I'm going on Monday. Spectacular carry marks for Muslim Nations in Contemporary History, alhamdulillah, but I still need to ace the final exam for an A in this course.

Crossing off the days; the Peloponnesian War not part of my January plans; 
fined for expired stickers on the laptop and iron


The future looks like my dreams, but leaving this place is proving to be harder than I thought.

More later, inshaAllah. Make du'a for me, o readers of good faith!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Overwhelmed


HS building levels 4 and 5, Friday 21st December 2012.
 Heartache.


Oh mirror in the sky, what is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?

(Landslide, Dixie Chicks/Fleetwood Mac)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

[Delayed post] The short sem: Illustrated, with notes

I wrote this during the short sem, but put off publishing it (just because). 

So I'm publishing it now because: 

  1. Iimaan said "kat post yang short sem tu kata nak tulis lebih byk post kan haha". 
  2. Like I said to Leila, I don't want to regret (after UIA) not blogging more about life in UIA while I'm still here. 
  3. I'm trying to ignore the fact that my IELTS speaking test is tomorrow, 10am. My strategy so far: Talk like my future depends on those 11-15 minutes with the examiner. We'll see how that goes. 
  4. I'm tired of thinking about the Jews of modern Egypt. And the prospect of writing up the papers for Modern Arab World and Islamic Civilization. Oh and preparing for the presentation on "Muhammadiyah". Not to mention the deluge of post-mid-sem-break mid-term tests and quizzes.

*               *               * 
Anyway, the post is just a 2-day diary-thing I wrote while doing the literature review for EAW.

Khamis 28 Jun 2012

21:00     Begin online search for journal articles. Read photocopied book chapters/books borrowed from library. 
02:35     First breakthrough (it was that difficult). Immediately gets addicted to the searching.
05:10     Sleep



[My laptop broke down so I had to use my father's].

10:15     Wake up
11:30     Begin online searching and printing articles at ITD computer lab
15:00     Bind the articles at photocopy shop, buy some cake from the bazaar -- there's always some kind of bazaar in UIA, every sem. Buy dinner at HS Cafe
15:25     Reach mahallah. Brunch/tea/snack on some cake [see photo below]. Sleep.



20:20     Wake up. Dinner. Finishes the remaining slice of cake.
21:15     Begin reading printed articles. Make notes along the way.

Jumaat 30 Jun 2012

03:25    Room mate pops in. "Maryam, are you working on an assignment? (So early in the sem?!)" "Yuhhhhh it's EAW, there's so much to do. I have to submit my first draft by the third week yaddayadda" "I know, I took that too." "You did? The English one? You can choose?" (because she's a Qur'an Sunnah major, and IRK peeps usually take the Arabic version of this course). "Yes. It was horrible, I don't want to remember it" And on and on for about five minutes. Then back to the articles. 

[The room-mate in question is now back home in Istanbul, for good. The short sem was her final sem. We really miss her oven, too. She (a) loves cats (b) listens to ABBA and asked for the mp3 files of the Dixie Chicks songs she heard playing from my laptop; which means we have the same taste in music (c) left an Istanbul key-chain on my noticeboard (plus several other household items for us) before she left (d) cooks, bakes, and loves cats. What's not to love?].


04:30     Kölbl, C. & Straub, J. (2001). "Historical consciousness in youth: Theoretical and exemplary empirical analyses."
04:50     Picasa break. Sambung makan nasi + tomyam dinner (See photo below). Birds outside already chirping.
05:15     Resume reading Kölbl & Straub.
05:30     Feeling sleepy.
06:10     Sleep.
 

08:39     Kak Seri calls. "Awak kat mana?" "(Groggily) Kat mahallahla kenapa." "Ada orang bagi pisang, kak Seri buat goreng pisang, nak?" "(Slightly more awake, excited) Nak, nak!" Back to sleep.
Sometime after, somebody else calls. I didn't want to pick up the phone, so I let it ring, and then put it on silent mode.
10:15     Kak Seri arrives at my room! She had to call Najwa to ask where our room was, because I didn't answer her calls or reply her texts (was asleep, phone was silent. Happens all the time). Apparently the bananas didn't turn out well (wrong kind of pisang), so she made cucur ikan bilis. Whatever, I ate them happily. We ate and talked.
12:10     Kak Seri leaves for her weekend class, she's taking a part-time diploma in Education something. I washed my shoes, then resumed reading the endless articles.
13:15     Mixed up ontogeny with ontology while looking up the first word on Google.
14:05     Done with Lee, P (2004). "‘Walking backwards into tomorrow’: Historical consciousness and understanding history." By this point I know that my survey was not going to involve finding out the respondents' historical consciousness orientation based on Rüsen's typology.
Break. Finished reading and making notes from four articles so far.
15:30     Boil eggs (in electric kettle) for sandwich. Continue with reading.
15:50     Sambung makan cucur ikan bilis.
16:33     Finish reading Haeberli (2005). Sees possibility of replicating some parts of his research.
18:50     Dinner with Kak Seri, her class finished (really early) unexpectedly. She bought chicken mandy rice for me, lamb mandy for her. 
19:50     Already feeling drowsy. Forced myself to stay awake (at least until normal bedtime) because I needed to break the up-all-night, sleep-during-the-day cycle. 
21:12     Still reading and making notes, but continuously snacking on honey (liquid candy!) to stay alert.
21:50     Done withh Selwyn (2009)
22:50     Done with Madge et al. (2009). Pleasantly distracted by some Facebook conversations. Felt weird because I was at the same time reading articles/study reports about Facebook in the lives of young adults/college students.
23:05     Begin reading Pempek et al.'s article (2009) from the last paragraph upwards.
23:57     Alhamdulillah, done with all the articles. Three or four have been taken out along the way (unnecessary/not very relevant. Plus, we can only use 10 references max. This is going to be a problem 'cos I've already had eight articles on my list, and about six book waiting to be included. Maybe I can negotiate with the lecturer? I mean, I usually have to use 10 references minimum, so how come it's 10 maximum for this Academic Writing subject? She did say something about not wanting our research to be overwhelmed by previous literature, but still...)

Further notes:

1) Alhamdulillah, I got A for EAW. 
2) Thank you to the 15 girls and 15 guys who participated in the survey. I literally could not have done this without you.
3) I'm not always this hardworking. In fact, most of the time my desk features more food than open books. 
4) I'm dreading the moment when I have to say goodbye to UIA. My heart breaks just thinking about it. 
5) Now back to my Ritz with honey breakfast.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Disorganized student misses blogging

...And resorts to numbered list.

1. I miss the silence of blogging. Facebook, with all its merits, sometimes feels too crowded.

2. Time is flying by really, really quickly.

3. I don't know why I bother to kemas the books at home. Every time I come home, new piles sprout out of nowhere. On the sofas, the coffee tables, the dining table, the floor. Unfortunately books don't move by themselves.

4. I want to go on a cruise down the Suez Canal, from Port Said to Suez/Port Tawfiq.

5. The other day for Modern SEA class, we had to compile a quick "profile" for a country. I picked Laos because I knew nothing about it. We had to draw the flag, map and national emblem (whoop!) of the assigned country. I miss drawing.

Pensel tumpul. That means (my hand shook while taking the picture).


6. In the second week of sem, we learnt how to convert Hijri dates to Miladi dates. Ugh. Had to do the calculations using the handphone calculator some more! Major hate. I didn't arrive at the correct answer for a couple of the dates.

7. Master's applications. It shouldn't be stressful, but it is, a bit. I have never wanted anything so much in my life.

8. All praises be to Allah who inspired me to take up French lessons once upon a time.

9. Now I feel like working on my 2 presentations, 2 mid term tests and 3 term papers (and pretending the research work doesn't exist). One more crazy hectic week (Allah help us!), then comes the mid-term break (during which I'll sit for my IELTS test, Allah help me).

10. Thank you for reading. I need your du'as!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

I know this is not Twitter

But I don't feel like writing long entries at the moment.

In less than a week from now, the new semester will begin (Excited excited excited!).
It will also be my final semester (I don't wanna close my eeeeeeeeeeyyyyyyyyes...!)

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Some reflections on research work

Kedua-dua subjek yang diambil dalam semester pendek ini bukannya subjek sejarah. Tapi untuk English for Academic Writing (EAW/LE 4000), setiap pelajar diwajibkan membuat research pendek/term paper yang berkait dengan major/department masing-masing. Tak cukup dengan itu, ada pula tema yang ditetapkan (section dia boleh pilih antara dua tema: social networking atau career). Memandangkan metodologi kajian yang ditetapkan agak terhad -- survey questionnaires dan interview (yang tak berapa digalakkan kerana semester pendek terlalu singkat untuk mengatur interview appointments, membuat transkrip dan sebagainya) -- dan cukup berbeza dengan gaya normal kajian pelajar Sejarah* (look up narratives and artifacts, interpret, compare with other evidences to determine the "truth", and on and on and on), maka dia memutuskan empat perkara:

1) Kajian yang lebih sesuai tentunya kajian yang melibatkan orang awam (as opposed to interviewing historians and "the history of such-and-such" topics).

2) This is not exactly the kind of research I prefer, but it's still enjoyable. Biasanya sebagai pelajar sejarah, kerja kami adalah menyelidik kejadian-kejadian sejarah, bukan memikirkan metahistorical questions (persoalan-persoalan tentang the discipline of history itu sendiri). Walau bagaimanapun,

3) Dia tak mahu membuat research yang berkait dengan career. Kemungkinan untuk menimbulkan worthwhile research questions memang ada, tapi bagi dia jawapannya sudah nyata. Kalau anda belajar sejarah, anda akan memilih salah satu daripada jalan-jalan ini:

  1. Jadi ahli akademik atau sejarawan profesional;
  2. Kerja dalam bidang yang berkait dengan sejarah (muzium, arkib, penulis novel sejarah?);
  3. Terlibat dengan history education (jadi guru atau pensyarah sejarah);
  4. Sambung pengajian dalam bidang yang berbeza;
  5. Kerja dalam bidang yang berbeza;
  6. Tak perlu kerja (Everyone repeat after me: I don't want a job, I just want money). 
Dan tak kiralah mana-manapun jalan yang dipilih, insha Allah, the training that you had acquired in (studying) History will give you many benefits in life. Jadi, perlukah bersusah-payah menulis term paper mengenai "isu-isu" yang berkait dengan kerjaya dan bidang Sejarah? Seperti membosankan. Metahistory pun lebih mengujakan.

4) Maksudnya dia mesti merangka kajian yang bertemakan social networking. Untuk mempermudah kerja, dia pilih medium yang laju (online social networking) dan yang popular serta pervasive (Facebook. Duhhh.).

Setelah membuat sedikit preliminary reading dan menimbang-nimbang beberapa tajuk yang mungkin (dengan cara berangan-angan ketika majlis makan-makan kelas tahfiz Al-Amin), dia memilih topik "historical consciousness" sebagai subjek kajian. Tak lama lagi, Facebook friends dia akan diganggu dengan survey questionnaire-nya. Tak kiralah mereka/anda suka sejarah, benci sejarah, ataupun don't give a damn about history. This is exactly what historical consciousness is about.

_______________________________

*Like last sem, we had to compile data about certain people or things related to the Ayyubid and Mamluk periods. I had to put together information (essay form, but 5 pages max! I suffocated.) on the emirs of Homs (and Hamah, too, actually, but the 5-page limit forced me to choose just one) -- okay my room mate just popped in to give me a steaming bowl of tomato soup ooh. Just the thing for this awfully cold weather. I'm not a polar bear, I hate cold weather. It rained cats and dogs before Maghrib, and the wind was so chilly [it was blowing in through the air vents] I didn't even want to get off the bed and out of the blanket, let alone step outside my room!) -- right. What was I saying?

Oh finding out facts about the Ayyubid emirs of Homs. So, I was looking up the death of one of them, Nasiruddin Muhammad. 

Humphreys says this:

 

Al-Maqrizi says this:


Hello no mention of alcohol here. Humphreys' "apparently from an excess of wine" doesn't seem so apparent now (well he didn't even mention where he got that information from. Or I was the one who couldn't see where his references were) So did he die of alcohol poisoning or not? I mean, it matters. If you die of too much wine, that's bad enough. If you're a ruler/governor/statesman of some kind and you die of too much wine, that's really bad. Even if you're a non-Muslim. And this man was a Muslim, one of Salahuddin al-Ayyubi's foremost lieutenants, and a relative of his (the Ayyubid dynasty was formed upon a system of confederate "iqta's"/roughly, "estates", with the power of governance divided among the Sultan's brothers or cousins). But then again, drinking alcohol is not that alien for *some* Muslim rulers of the past... Plus, keeping an open mind (because sometimes being objective is really difficult. History student or not, you take sides. So the least you can do is be open to possibilities) is like, a huge part of doing research.

But I couldn't find any other references about his cause of death anywhere else (I was compiling this paper the night before the submission deadline -- surprise, surprise -- so there was no time to look elsewhere anyway!)...so I had to settle for only putting in the date of his death, about which Humphreys agreed with al-Maqrizi.

Until today, I haven't been able to resolve this question (dare I say "sebab tak sempat cari"?) And no, Google doesn't know everything (I found this out when doing library research for my history assignments, and I find it so...comforting. As if Google's "ignorance" allows my pursuit of a university education to still be relevant).

Do you also geek out over long-dead people's lives [and deaths]? (It's alright, you don't have to.)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Mesti ingat, mesti buat

Adakah anda orang yang gemar menampal peringatan/kata-kata dorongan/senarai tugasan/matlamat-matlamat di dinding atau soft board anda? Misalnya, kalau anda pelajar universiti, mungkin anda tampal besar-besar senarai subjek yang diambil berserta angka 4.00 di sebelah semua subjek tersebut. Lebih terpuji, ada yang meletakkan senarai amalan sunat harian yang dimestikan ke atas diri sendiri. Mungkin juga anda letakkan target penurunan/penambahan berat badan. Seorang room mate dia dahulu, melukis gambar kubur dan menulis di bawahnya "Di sinilah tempat aku kembali nanti". Lagi, ramai juga yang menampal target-target hidup (25 tahun: graduate; 26 tahun: nikah; 30 tahun: umrah). Ada orang yang tiap-tiap hari menukar nota Post-It "To do list" mereka.

Atau, adakah anda suka soft board anda dibiarkan kosong (yang ada mungkin kupon piza; random keychains pemberian orang yang tak tahu di mana lagi mahu diletakkan kerana kunci cuma ada dua set: kunci rumah dan kunci mahallah sedangkan keychains sudah berbelas-belas; dan kerongsang tudung tinggalan kawan-kawan anda yang suka meninggalkan kerongsang di bilik anda) kerana anda berpendapat bahawa motivasi dan peringatan ialah perkara peribadi. Lagipun anda paranoid, tak mahu orang tahu apa yang sedang anda fikir, rancang, atau risaukan.

Dia termasuk dalam kategori kedua.

Tapi kadang-kadang, perbuatan mengumumkan matlamat dan peringatan diri sendiri boleh menggesa kita untuk bersungguh-sungguh memenuhi perkara-perkara tersebut.

Maka hari ini, dia dare to publicize (sedikit).

Dalam perkataan lain, kalaulah dia jenis yang menulis di soft board, beginilah rupa peringatan di soft board-nya:

1) Don't lose more than 5 marks for carry marks OF ALL SUBJECTS from now on. Okay too much. At least get 50/60 FOR EACH SUBJECT.

2) That means:
    a) minimize daydreaming during lectures
    b) update lecture notes, at least once a week
    c) stop your stupid begin-revising-the-night-before-the-test habit because you know you can do better than that
    d) haunt the library. (But not the leisure reading section or the TV area.)  

3) You have enough clothes already (don't buy any more tops just because "it's really pretty and it's on sale")

4) Buy formal shoes -- maybe dark grey Mary Janes. Are MJ's formal? Whatever, get dark grey Mary Janes.

5) Read more, read seriously. Are you a history student or what?

6) Write letters more.

7) Blog more regularly. Ask questions, answer them; share experiences; show/tell others about the interesting people you meet; think aloud; record the good things and the useful things that happen to you; be careful, don't reveal too much, this is the Internet; but if it's a good thing, don't be afraid to hit "publish".

8) Don't get any grade lower than A. To achieve this, refer to #1.

9) You won't be able to raise your CGPA if you don't fulfill #8.

10) People don't die of low grades. Their hearts just break from regrets.

Dia pelajar santai (nota tak pernah lengkap, tak melazimi bacaan serius harian, malam sebelum exam baru nak tidur dengan bahan bacaan), sebab itulah mesti diingatkan bahawa gred A hanya boleh diraih melalui sifat istiqamah. Sebab itulah public(-ized) self reminder ini di-overload dengan perihal pelajaran. Lagipun, esok semester pendek bermula (kelas English for Occupational Purposes jam 8:30-11:30, English for Academic Writing jam 2-4!), dan semua orang tahu bahawa semester pendek ibarat roller coaster -- sekejap sahaja berlalu dan habis, sakit kepala sedikit sebanyak sepanjang perjalanan, kerap kali rasa ingin menjerit -- kalau tak diingatkan akan kepayahannya dari awal, nescaya lalailah pelajar-pelajar santai se-UIA.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Dyeing helps me relax, too

My brain went into overdrive while answering Thursday's Islah & Tajdid paper. First question totally threw me off: Discuss the main features of Al-Ghazali's views on philosophy [14 marks]. I was all, "What, you mean I have to give specifics? Fourteen marks?" I allowed myself one round of heavy sigh, inward groan, and an eye roll, and moved on to the next two questions. (This has been my modus operandi since I sat for exams in primary school -- wait I think we had exams in kindergarten, so okay, my MO since kindergarten -- if you no idea what a question wants straightaway after reading it, skip to the next question. Don't waste your time mourning over that topic you didn't revise. My general motto in life -- regarding the past -- is don't cry over spilt milk; mop it up and pour yourself some more, or drink something else if there's no more milk to be had).

Still, after "Giv(ing) a comparative analysis of the careers and thoughts of Ibn 'Abdul Wahhab and Shah Waliullah (Dehlavi) [12 marks]", and "Describ(ing) the career and thought of (Muhammad Iqbal (1877-1983) in the Muslim world [12 marks]", I forced myself to recall Al-Ghazali's ideas on philosophy (bother, bother, bother!). Background of his times, the Mu'tazilism-Al-Ma'mun thing, the whole Nizamiyyah schools yarn, the Islamic Golden Age trend of rational thinking, too much thinking, admiration for Hellenic philosophy, how the great shaykh trumped neo-Platonic philosophy forever with his arguments (which I described really vaguely), his period of disenchantment with philosophy-'Ilm al-Kalam, etc etc. Threw in some description of the Ihya' Ulumuddin, explained how it reflected his approach towards knowledge, etc... ya Allah. That doesn't seem like I actually discussed the main features of his views on philosophy, does it?

Naaah.

Anyway, to console myself after that paper, I spent the entire evening and night dyeing some fabric I'd brought along to campus for de-stressing purposes. 2 meters of white cotton were cut into three pieces (unequal sizes), and dyed into blue, pink, and light purple. Then I changed my mind and cut the now-blue piece into two and put it into the pink dye to make it purple. I hate blue and purple (which doesn't mean true hate, but that on a list of most-liked colours, they're at the bottom. They're nice colours by themselves, but rather flat I think), I'm still not sure why I bought those shades.


Splotchy dye job.
Wear long gloves unless you want to dye your hands as well, like I did. I went through three pairs of latex gloves, which were no help at all because the hot dye-water kept filling them in when I sloshed the fabric around in the pail.

The colours aren't as bold as I'd like them to be, though, so that means another round of dyeing later. 

I don't know what it is about exams that make me suddenly hate reading the materials I need to be reading for the exam. Yesterday I was supposed to prepare for today's Bahasa Melayu Kerjaya paper, but all of a sudden, Kak Ely's Philosophy of Religion (or whatever that subject is) notes seemed far more interesting than the BM book. I even (happily and willingly!) read through her notes about Al-Ghazali's ideas on causality (don't ask), although I've had a nightmare with that topic only the day before in a History paper! And her notes were what I'd call boring under normal circumstances -- they (Comparative Religion students) actually have to study Hume and Kant and all those thinkers. Ugh. But last night those subjects were like Harry Potter compared to my Bahasa Melayu book.

Bahasa Melayu Kerjaya is actually rather interesting. Practical is the word. Ridiculous workload: contact hours:  credit hours: exam time ratio, but useful subject. This morning before the exam, I crammed down all the gelaran Diraja and gelaran kurniaan (Yang Berhormat for elected MPs or State Reps; Yang Berbahagia for the PM, DPM and Menteri Besars; Yang Berbahagia for non-elected people who work in the civil service, yadda yadda) details for the Protokol Majlis topic. One of the questions wanted us to prepare the introductory remarks for the Rector's speech in a majlis, that, get this...disempurnakan oleh Tengku Mahkota Pahang. Have you ever written a speech that addresses the Malay royals? Have you? I thought not. See, Bahasa Melayu Kerjaya is very useful.

Did you know that the Raja Muda/Tengku Mahkotas of the different negeris have to be addressed differently? The Sultans, too. And before this I didn't know that when a royal is in the audience, you have to -- after memohon sembah beribu-ribu ampun, menjunjung kasih Kebawah Duli Yang Teramat Mulia Tuanku (this being the proper gelaran for the Raja Muda of Kelantan and Pahang only) kerana berkenan mencemar duli... -- ask the Sultan/Tengku Mahkota's consent to address the rest of the audience? That means the Sultan/Tengku Mahkota acts like an observer throughout your speech. I'm sorry am I making sense?  You didn't have to read all that. But it's really interesting, honestly.

On a happier note, I'm now done with my minor courses (with the Communication Law & Ethics paper over last week), and also with the Bahasa Melayu subjects. After this, I have 7 history subjects + 2 English subjects (university requirement courses) to go, and then, by the end of January 2013 Insha Allah, I'll be done with my undergraduate life here. Rabbi yassir wa la tu'assir, Rabbi tammim bilkhayr!

P.S.: Next up: Indonesian History from 1500 C.E., History of the Ayyubids & Mamluks, and Colonialism in the Muslim World. Now we're talkin'!

P.P.S.: I always seem to have more time for blogging during the exam weeks.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Sewing for sanity

Esei panjang lagi. (What? Don't look at me like that.) 

Bahagian I (Pernyataan masalah): Perlukah belajar tinggi-tinggi? Perlukah berkerjaya? Cabaran perempuan alaf ke-21.

Anda ada cita-cita? Contohnya, "Saya mahu tanam buah pic di belakang rumah dan menjaga pokok tersebut sehingga mendapat hasil. Kemudian, saya akan menjual buah-buah pic tanaman saya kepada orang kampung". 

Bagus. Manusia normal perlukan cita-cita. Tapi, pernahkah anda berasa terlampau terbeban dengan cita-cita sendiri, sehingga mahu lupakan saja impian anda? Contohnya, "Susah pulak jaga pokok pic. Tanam pisang sudahlah. Pisang goreng lebih dikenali, lebih komersil, lebih marketable. Lagipun orang kampung ini tak gemarkan buah pic". Dan akhirnya cita-cita anda terkubur di belakang rumah.

Pisang lebih marketable berbanding pic?
BBA (atau undang-undang) lebih marketable daripada History? *wink wink*

Cita-cita dia tak banyak. (Rasanya cita-cita tak perlu banyak; cukuplah kalau boleh memandu usaha kita sehari-harian.) Dia pun ada impian. Sejak usia 16 tahun, dia telah meletakkan matlamat untuk mendalami Hebrew/Jewish studies di universiti.

What studies? (Rasa macam tak considerate pulak kalau tak letak subtitle dalam post panjang)

Bila orang tanya kenapa Jewish studies, dia selalu terdiam dan sekadar menawarkan jawapan ringkas "Sebab minat". Bukan sebab tak tahu jawapan, tapi sebab jawapan sebenarnya terlalu panjang, iaitu seperti yang berikut:

This is what I want to do because:

[1] Personally, I think Jews are fascinating; 
[2] I think it's important to learn about the Jews from the Jewish worldview;
[3] Judaism and Islam have had a long history together, but I know so little about Judaism. Experts on Islamic history, we have quite a number already. But Muslims who specialize in Jewish history? Come on!
[4] I think Jews will play a major role (or, since they already are doing that now, an even greater role) in the administration/politics/global engineering of everything on Planet Earth in the near future, so we'll need people with qualified knowledge about them to help ourselves deal with them;
[5] I need an excuse to learn another language;
[6] I enjoy doing things that other people don't do;
[7] I have to see other places. There's no chance of doing Jewish studies in Malaysia, so this is one solid reason for finally going overseas;
[8] A lot of what I've heard about Jews are linked to conspiracy theories, but I have no idea about how to find out what is true and what isn't;
[9] I've heard so much about the Jews, but have never met one in my life (refer to #1);
[10] I look forward to hearing "You're studying what?!" and "Why would anyone want to study that?" again after this, harhar;
[11] Curiousity about The Other, Them. I want a first-hand experience. At the tangible and intangible sources for Jewish history and civilization. (I'm a history student, I swoon over old and ancient stuff). And I want to be able to understand when I see them.
[12] So that I can help Muslims understand Judaism and the Jews better, insha Allah;
[13] I want to learn something new. New is good.
[14] I'm bored (Is this the same as #13?);
[15] I really need to specialize in one civilization/culture/period. As of now, I'm taking in too much information about so many eras and cultures, but am digesting too little.
[16] Fardhu kifayah.

Kesimpulannya, kerana dia minat, rasa perlu, dan rasa mampu.

Prof. Khoo kata, "Studying history is not about saying 'this is right' or 'this is wrong'. That is not the job of historians. Your primary job is to find out what really happened." Tapi bagi dia, untuk mengambil pengajaran daripada kejadian-kejadian lalu, kita harus faham apa yang hak dan apa yang  tidak hak. Dan memang Profesor Khoo sendiri selalu ingatkan, tujuan kita belajar sejarah adalah untuk mengambil pengajaran untuk masa hadapan. Tak mengapa. Yang jelas, tanggungjawab ahli sejarah profesional adalah untuk memastikan dahulu apa yang sahih; perihal menilai itu, tanggungjawab bersama masyarakat.

Sebagai sejarawan, dia mesti objektif. Sebagai manusia, dia mesti berprinsip. Sebagai Muslim, mesti kenal apa yang hak dan apa yang batil. Pandai-pandailah gabungkan semuanya.

Takut! 

Rasa seperti takkan boleh bahagia kalau impian yang satu ini terkandas. Ibarat Rapunzel yang tak dapat bebas dari menara kurungan, hari-hari tengok rumput dan tanah dari jauh. Ibarat pungguk rindukan bulan di Kutub Utara di musim siang. Ibarat cinta yang tak kesampaian, malah lebih mengecewakan. Cita-cita ini sudah menjadi sebahagian penting daripada diri dia. Sehingga menakutkan dirinya sendiri...ibarat takut tanaman pic takkan pernah menjadi!

Tolonglah doakan kejayaan dia untuk mencapai cita-cita ini (jika ini haluan yang terbaik). Dan kalau ini bukan jalan terbaik, supaya dia menemui jalan yang lebih baik dan jauh lebih baik. Allah Maha Tahu.

Malangnya, setelah lelah membuat assignments, bacaan dan kajian saban hari, kadang-kadang terfikir untuk menghentikan sahaja impian-impian lalu, lantaklah. Hilang percaya pada kesanggupan diri sendiri.

Dan pada masa-masa kepenatan seperti ini, pasti dia mengadu kepada Iimaan, ataupun sesiapa yang kebetulan melepak bersama-sama.

"Iimaan. Kita rasa macam tak nak sambung belajarlah. Nak buat ape sambung belajar. Kalau sambung belajar kita boleh buat ape? Kalau sambung belajar, nanti kita kena mengajar. Mesti kita rasa kita kena (perlu) mengajar, kalau tak, sia-sia jelah belajar tinggi-tinggi. Mana boleh belajar banyak-banyak tapi tak sampaikan. Tapi kita tak nak kerja. Alaaa tak nak kerjaaaaaa, penatlah. Nanti balik rumah lewat malamlah, bawak kerja balik rumahlah. Tapi kita nanti mesti bosan kalau tak sambung belajar." Dan seterusnya, dan seterusnya.

Iimaan pun melayan sahaja. "Hah. Habis tu awak nak buat ape? Nak jahit baju?"

"Ha ah boleh jugak. Hee bestnya kan, design barang, jahit. Eh tapi nanti kita mesti bosan. Hari-hari menjahit je. Mesti kita nak belajar jugak."

"Habis tu macamana?"

"Lepas tu jual kuih kat depan rumah ke. Bestnya. Tapi kena cari rumah yang kat tempat strategik ah kan. Heh bestnya jual kuih, macam Kak Ina dengan Auni hari tu." Diam. "Eh tapi nanti mesti kita rasa bosan kan? Tapi betul ke kita nak sambung belajar? Kita tak nakla buat PhD, nak buat ape. Nanti orang panggil kita Doktor, entah apa-apa je. Kadang-kadang bila fikir balik, kita rasa macam dah tak nak sambung lagi."

Iimaan sudah menampakkan kerisauan. "Ish. Betul ke. Habis apa yang awak nak?"

"Taktaula Iimaan. Kena istikharah lagi."

Sekarang Iimaan selalu memberi nasihat positif. Kadang-kadang, tengah senyap-senyap melepak/makan/belajar tiba-tiba Iimaan cakap, "Kita rasa awak kena jugak belajar lagi. Mak kita pun kata, perlu. Sebab kalau awak belajar, nanti awak boleh ajar kat orang lain pulak." Kawan-kawan lain pun begitu. Hilda, course-mate yang cuma dikenali dari kelas Usul Fiqh pernah menyapa  dia di tengah jalan: "Hari tu I was talking with my lecturer pasal your plans nak buat Jewish studies tu...and she said, betul jugak, we need people to study those things..."

Terima kasih sahabat! You believe in me more than I believe in myself. 

9 to 5 jobs (7 to 7, actually, if you consider all that commuting etc): my ultimate nightmare.

Ini bukan setakat krisis peribadi dia, atau Iimaan, atau kak Solehah, atau kak Seri, atau Nisa', juga kawan-kawannya yang lain [yang semuanya pernah menyatakan keinginan untuk bebas memilih antara berkerjaya dan tidak berkerjaya. Hakikatnya kebebasan pilihan ini tertakluk pada keadaan masing-masing kan?]. Dilema ini pernah juga disuarakan oleh seorang sister jurusan Bahasa Arab dari BosniaKatanya: "Muslimah(s) today are so confused. To work  or not to work? To further our studies or not?" Kami perlukan nasihat orang-orang yang lebih tahu!

Kami mahu jadi manusia berguna. Tapi adakah kami lebih berguna jika berprofesion, atau lebih berguna sebagai stay-at-home-wives/mothers? (And you know what, kalau tak berkeluarga pun, tak mahulah kerja yang keluar pagi balik petang.) Sebab kalau anda belum perasanlah, sangat susah untuk seimbangkan kerjaya dan keluarga, apatah lagi untuk orang perempuan yang banyak tuntutan di rumah. Dia tahu, Mak-Mak kita banyak yang bekerja, boleh saja survive. Mak dia juga. Tapi kelegaan Mak bila akhirnya berhenti kerja setahun yang lepas, tak dapat digambarkan dengan kata-kata. That said, pasti bosan kalau tak bekerja langsung. Sumpah bosan. Serabut betul.

Tapi rasa bertanggungjawab untuk mencari dan menyampaikan ilmu asing selalu menghantui! Mungkin disebabkan proses menimba ilmu yang sangat addictive. Kerana lebih banyak kita belajar, pasti kita lebih sedar betapa banyaknya lagi yang kita jahil.

(Yang sebenarnya, tekanan membawa kepada putus asa. Hilang tekanan, hilanglah putus asa.)

Kesimpulannya, (1) Jangan biarkan stres membelenggu hidup anda (2) Carilah cara yang sesuai untuk melepaskan tekanan (3) Kita perlukan sahabat (4) Dia masih keliru (5) Semoga Allah menunjukkan jalan yang terbaik untuk masa hadapan kita semua.

Bahagian II (Design bag, make bag, feel good): Hobi itu penting.

Warning:


Intense sewing and needle-work talk and photos all the way from here. If you are not interested in sewing, fabrics, bags, or detailed descriptions about sewing failures and fabric/sewing-notion prices, don't bother scrolling down. I'm sure other people have updated their blog recently, too, (with far more interesting stories). Might as well close this tab now. Go.

But in case you're wondering what this bag story has to do with all that "Oh no my dreams are terrifying me" drama: Well, because, the whole bag-designing and -making experience was challenging and very satisfying, helped me calm down, take a mental break from my studies, regain my senses, and most importantly, ditch any thoughts about giving up my dreams. It made me realize that I shouldn't start second-guessing my own plans just because I was so sick of reading and stressed out from research and work. The situation was simple: I was spent, and badly needed a creative release. In other words, this is how I relax.

Now you can close the tab.
_____________________________________________________


(My not yet finished) 2-in-1 watermelon laptop/book bag
Except that at the moment I don't have a laptop to put in it because mine is being checked/repaired. The screen died.

Why I made it: I had bought myself some thick, sunshiny yellow cotton (in the form of a pair of jeans from the bundle shop) a couple of months back. The colour was so cheerful, I just had to take it, only I didn't know what exactly I was going to do with it [I bought it for the fabric, not to wear it]. After staring at it for some time and mulling over my options, I thought: Yellow watermelon! I need a bag for my laptop! I'm itching to make something! Make a watermelon laptop bag! So many exclamation marks.

And so the yellow/red watermelon laptop bag was born. (Yellow to match my yellow rubber flats and red to match my red canvas wedges. Okay not really. I just happen to have a pair each of yellow and red shoes. Watermelon colours.) My point is, this is like a 2 styles-in-1 bag. One side yellow, one side red. Wear either colour to match my outfit or mood.

I measured my laptop, did a lot of drafting on brown paper, and finalized my design along the way (basically a tote shaped like a slice/wedge of watermelon -- thicker at the base, thinner near the zipper -- padded lining with partition, recessed zipper, non-adjustable straps. Just your basic tote, really). Had the pattern ready in a couple of days, with the aid of a variety of bowls and round-edged trays to shape the watermelon.

A couple of weeks of fabric-hunting followed. I had a stash of fabrics waiting to be made into bags, but I still needed to get some red and green ones for the watermelon. Eventually I found the red and two shades of green that I wanted for a bargain (more on this below).




(a) Outer body yellow side (b) Outer body red side. My mother said that this isn't the right colour for a watermelon, because watermelon red is different, pinkish really. But I don't think I can be happy carrying around a pink bag, so although this shade of red is a bit too strong for a watermelon, I chose it over the deep pink fabric I had. (c) Lining/the actual body of the bag. I sewed the straps to the body (and will sew them to meet at the bottom) to strengthen the bag.



Yellow half, lining stuffed into the outer layer for show here. Yep, they still need to be sewn together but that's not going to happen until I get hold of a sewing machine. Which means when I'm done with the exams and get back home. (1) Watermelon skin stripe detail (2) I wanted to use buttons for the seeds (because who wants to spend their time embroidering watermelon seeds, really), but I couldn't find any seed/teardrop-shaped buttons anywhere. So embroidery it is after all. I embroidered the seeds using regular DMC floss, 2 strands for the padding, and one strand for the final satin stitch
(3) & (4) More details.


Red half. (5) The striped part of the rind is supposed to be the sides of the bag (7) The dark grey material was too dark to be friendly with the red one, so I had to use off-white floss for the seeds and heavy white cotton for the eaten-out void because white contrasts much better with the red 
(6) & (8) So much top-stitching, so much fun.



(9) Recessed zipper: I used a larger-than-normal zipper, not like the regular ones you'd sew on to garments. Cost me about RM6, I think (at Haby & Wools, Ampang Park. God knows how often I haunt that place). I haven't finished this part -- see the basting there? -- it needs to be attached to the outer watermelon thing. (10) Every seam and every allowance had to be marked so that no stupid, frustrating mistakes will happen from start to finish. Of course I still had quite a few "Oops" moments, but they were manageable, thanks to all that pain-in-the-neck tracing-wheeling and triple-checking I did before I cut out the pieces. Alhamdulillah. (11) Lined right up to the zipper. (12) Oh and I had to quilt the inside pieces first (and the padding was recycled from an old mattress cover, so I had to wash, bleach, dry, and unpick the original quilt before I get to use the padding. I get tired all over again just by remembering the whole process) before actually assembling them together. (13) The partition, to separate the laptop from its charger et al. I didn't make a restraining strap to hold the laptop in place, nor did I make ANY pockets, 'cos even without the pockets and straps, it was already a very involved project, and I just couldn't bring myself to even think about drafting, cutting out, and sewing any more pieces.


The inside story: (14) & (18) This is how the back of a satin-stitched thing looks like. 
(15) & (19) The bitten part. (16) & (17) Clipped curves. 


More bag talk:

(1) Cost

a) The quilt padding, like I said, was recycled. So no cost there. Just doing one batch of laundry plus hours of unpicking quilt stitches to get rid of the old outer quilt material. But it felt really good because I get to re-use the thing.

b) And the best part of making this bag is...the red, yellow and both green materials were all upcycled from pants (jeans? Jeans can be not blue, right? Right?) I bought from bundle shops. The pants cost me RM5 each at the Friday pasar malam at Bandar Bukit Mahkota, except for the yellow one (RM10 I think), which I got from a bundle shop in Bandar Baru Bangi, section 15. 

I am usually rather apprehensive about using old stuff to make new ones (because fabrics, especially, wear out, and lose their weight/texture/nice finish), but jeans material is very hard-wearing, and I'm seeing great results with my first try here. Heavy cotton make the best bag material (I think, because I like my stuff to be sturdy but washable), but the good ones are usually quite expensive (around RM20-40 per meter), and even so, finding the right colours is another headache [and I'm very picky with my colours and fabrics]. So I'm happy to say that from now on, I'll definitely use second-hand jeans to make bags again. The bundle shops sell so many colours! On top of that, most of them are skinny jeans, or very low-cut ones, so I like to think that they're better off being bags rather than pants that don't really cover people's awrah.

[And as much as possible, I choose the ones that look the newest.]

And after taking what I need from the trousers for this bag, I still have about half-a-jeans remaining for each colour.

c) The material for the lining is some sort of light linen/cotton (I'm a fan of naturals) that I bought for RM4 per meter, which is a very happy price;

d) But the dark-grey cotton I used for the straps, zipper panels, and bitten out void (for the yellow side) cost RM25.90 per meter (MINNA fabric from IKEA). I probably used up at least half a meter of the dark grey for all of that [so around RM13].

e) The white material used for the bitten out space (for the red watermelon) is also MINNA, but it's not like I used even a quarter of a meter for that part. Just several inches square, really.

f) Threads and embroidery flosses in all, maybe RM10. 

Overall, I think it's a reasonably-priced project, and could be even cheaper if I'd used recycled materials for the dark grey and white parts (or maybe even the entire bag!).

(2) Postscript

I wish I could do a tutorial on this, but since I took no pictures along the way, I don't think I can do one properly. The steps are way too many, anyway!

If anyone is thinking about making a bag like this, here's a tip: If you want a quicker bag, just paint a watermelon on a piece of heavy fabric! I find applique-ing and patchworking the watermelon therapeutic, but it takes a lot of time, precision, and patience.


Painting will probably be cheaper, too (but I'm not really sure). Because if you use Dylon fabric paint, that'll cost around RM10 per paint tube/colour, which is quite a lot, especially if you want multiple coats of paint to make the image really stand out. The Dylon 3D paint (also around RM10 per tube) would be perfect for the seeds (I considered this, and even bought a tube, but I imagined people -- me, mostly -- digging my fingernails in the shiny, rubbery 3D seeds later on, so I chose to embroider them instead). Use other brands of fabric paint for cheaper options.

Gotta study for the exams now.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Contengan di meja perpustakaan

I've just noticed these scribbles on one of the library's study tables (the ones that look like boxes with walls on three sides and allows you to have some privacy from your neighbours). So entertaining. FYI most of the tables here aren't vandalized so if you were just about to say (what's wrong with UIA people, don't they have any civic awareness, aren't they supposed to be an Islamic university?...Stop thinking already). 

I won't justify their graffiti-ing of public furniture, but their words do make me stop for a bit and think about (student) life. The scribbles are so random and so deliberate.

The previous table:
I HATE CALCULUS!!

This table:
On the shelf ledge:
DON'T LEAVE BOOK. (Which is the scribbler's version of the library notice "Do not leave library materials and personal belongings on the reading table. Thank you.")


On the right-hand side table wall (In no particular order. The scribbles are all over the place. Some doodles, too.):

I (heart shape) IIUM. Responses to this scribble:
- good joke LOL
- NUTS!
- average :P
- tipu
- BURN IN HELL
- F.U
- you can't be serious!
- (In Arabic) Muhammad Ayyan
- (In Arabic) Muhammad Ahmad

DID YOU REALIZED THAT OUR DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER (NAJIB) WAS ACTUALLY INVOLVED IN ALTANTUYA'S DEAD? WHAT A SHAME!
-  actually it was his wife who asked her bodyguard 2 kill altantuya!
   - Rosmah
   - Altantuya seduced her hubby!!
     - But Y does d idiot Abdul Razak B. let himself being accused Idiotic
   - ERM QUESTION..HOW ARE THEY NOW?
     - main source INTERNET!

There's another scribble (plus responses), but they're so inappropriate, I'm not going to repeat them here. I seriously think they wrote that down just for shock value. Too bored with their textbooks probably. If you want to see them come to the UIA library, level 2, sisters' section. It's the 8th table from the left against the wall at the sisters' end. But of course there're a thousand more useful things you can do at the library.

On the left-hand side wall (this looks like the heartbreak wall):

(In red ballpoint ink) 11/04/2011 I miss him

I HATE MEN
- I miss Memdhoo

I miss my family
- I miss my family too :(
  - I want to go HOME!
    - I miss my mom and daddy at home
    - Mis my mom's cooking =|
      - I miss everything at home!!

The guy I like ^_^ He likes my friend 8-02-2011 V_V
- I was backstabbed

(In black ink) Don't write on public properties
- thank you
- shut up
- you also write
  - tau xpe

Good luck for Everyone :)

I study smart!

I (heart shape) GOD!

I love you...

Gerdim seni bir kere
Baskasini sevemem
Deli diyorlar bana
Desinler degisemem...
- UIA intnet system r very BAD!! kdekot!

IIUM @ UIA KIKIS DUIT!
- org dh bg ilmu bising lak die...

Guys are so stupid don't believe them!

Does love exist?
- no no no
- NO
- No No No
- NO Don't believe in love
- Yes, coz I'm in love!
- If exist where is it?

This is nonsense!! Get a life!!
- Good

Money is important without money you can't life

I wana b dean list

And on the wall right in front of me:
....in the rain? u'r in pain, screaming so loud. n no 1 can hear u! (The rest of the scribbles have been obscured by a new library sign that warns us not to leave our stuff on the table unsupervised.)
- ...& scream in the rain u just want to blame others 4 ur pain
- what a looser!!!

please don't write anything on this table
- You also did it!!!

What are you doing? STUDY!!

Actually this feels a bit like reading your newsfeed on Facebook (someone posts something random and not particularly useful - on their wall or on someone else's wall - and then the comments go on and on and on).

UIA is in revision period and approaching the exam weeks now. Again.

P.S.: Prepare well and answer the questions wisely, everyone!


P.P.S.: If you have no idea what the question wants, make up your own answers (using your common sense). I do it all the time [whenever necessary]. I just did that for a quiz two days ago. I made up answers for the entire quiz (and prayed that I'd get some points for trying!). The questions were so precise (which means they were taken from parts of the texts that no one read), but everyone was so used to precise questions (and not knowing what to answer) so we came out from the quiz cheerfully anyway.

P.P.P.S.: Get enough rest. Don't ever attempt to enter an exam hall if your head is heavy from sleep deprivation. That's like mental suicide.

P.P.P.P.S.: Try a short nap after every revision session. My mother told me that sleep helps to (somehow) strengthen your memory. I have no idea how scientific this is, but it works.

P.P.P.P.P.S.: Read and revise everything. Or else don't exit the exam hall complaining "Apsal yang aku baca semua tak masuk?".
 
P.P.P.P.P.P.S.: Don't worry too much, it's just the exams. We're Malaysians, kan! How many times have we been through them already?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Some practical advice

...from my lecturers. Dikutip sepanjang semester ini.


Professor Khoo (Colonialism in the Muslim World): 

1. Exams are not important, but they are what we call a necessary evil.

2. You cannot be satisfied with general knowledge.

Sarah Chinoy (Niche debate trainer): 
 
3. If you want to contribute to the society, now's (while we're still students) the time. Later, I promise you, you'll either be married to your job, or to a human being.

Professor Kopansky (History of the Ayyubids and Mamluks): 

4. It is better to be friends (not just lovers) with (your spouse). A man can betray a woman, but he will never betray a friend, especially not after he remembers all the good and bad times they'd been through together in the marriage.

5. Don't marry a man who only promises you cinta. He must give you clothes, a roof over your head, whatever you need, and he must make you happy.

Assoc. Prof. Dr Arshad Islam (Islah and Tajdid Movements in the Muslim World): 
 
6. Kurang(kan) makan, kurang(kan) tidur.

Madam Arina Johari (Bahasa Melayu Kerjaya):

7. Dengar betul-betul apa yang saya ajar ni. Jangan pulak nanti masa exam, angkat tangan, panggil saya. Lepas tu bisik kat saya, "Apa ni Madam? Tajuk apa ni? Tak pernah belajar pun?"


Sekian catatan dia untuk kali ini.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Peringatan dakwah daripada Profesor Khoo

Sambil mengulang kaji untuk ujian mid-term Colonialism in the Muslim World esok (atau mungkin bukan esok), terjumpa catitan nasihat Profesor Emeritus Khoo Kay Kim di celah-celah cerita sejarah:


[Remember this:]
Islam is for both Muslims and non-Muslims. So when someone comes to you and asks you about Islam, don't say "Mind your own business". You are each of you a mubaligh, you have an obligation to explain to non-Muslims what Islam is all about. Non-Muslims need to understand Islam, so that they can adjust.


Ya Allah, kurniakanlah kami bahagia di dunia dan bahagia di akhirat.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

How to speak in public fearlessly

I am writing this because it has been "Presentation Week" for the past few weeks in IIUM. I don't mind doing presentations, and most of the time I actually enjoy it, but I know some people positively hate speaking in front of a crowd, no matter how many times they've had done it already. Last week a dear friend asked me, "Macamana nak hilangkan gugup masa presentation ah?" ("How do I deal with my stage fright before presentations?"). I realized then that I could write a whole blog post to answer her question.

Disclaimer:
Before I continue with another 10 or 20 paragraphs of this how-to, you should know this: I am NOT a great public speaker. I don't move my audiences to tears, make them feel like changing into a different person just by listening to my speech, etc. But I'm not afraid of speaking in public, and I know this is the first step towards being a good public speaker.

I don't have a secret to this. I don't enjoy talking, as you might remember, so the same goes for talking in front of many people. But I strangely do not fear it, alhamdulillah. My very first time speaking in public was when I was 11. At the end of my darjah 6 year, a (very garang) teacher at school told me to see her, then told me that I had to tell a story (as a performance, ugh) during the Prize-Giving Day. Mm-hmm. Did I have a choice? Of course not, the teacher in question wasn't the type you dilly-dally around with. She says it, you do it.

So I went along, had to rehearse in front of her (I HATE rehearsing for a public speech of any kind. I speak in public for the one necessary time, which is that time I spend on stage, so no rehearsals-lah please. I avoid rehearsals as much as I possibly can)...and, apprehensive as I was, I did it: Told a story about The Magic Fish in front of the whole school and their parents. Complete with props (like a golden manila fish) and a couple of voice-changes at appropriate moments (big voice for the fisherman, squeaky voice for the fish). That was a landmark event in my life because at that moment I discovered that I don't mind speaking in public.

 Of course this picture has nothing to do with the post.
Just trying to break up the text text text text text.
(I was feeling drowsy in class and needed a bit of sugar rush
and I had a camera in hand so I just snapped a picture, just in case I need 
photographic documentation of (i) me holding a sweet or 
(ii) me falling asleep in class and doing something, anything to wake up
or (iii) maybe I'll need a random photo to use as a text-breaker someday).

So maybe my fearlessness is natural. Actually I'd call it feelingless-ness. Once during my late-teenage years, I received one of those forwarded-texts from a friend, it said (something to this effect): "Describe me in one word. Forward this message to your friends, you'll be surprised at the responses you get". So I replied that SMS and forwarded it to about 20 friends. (Really, you should try this, too, it's very revealing and a form of muhasabah, too, I'd say). The responses I got? Three things: Smart, Calm, and Cat Lover. (I wonder if I'd still get the same answers if I forwarded that text today) The only relevant answer for this post would be CALM. I'm a calm person (most of the time). So what happens when I present topics in class or debate a motion is -- I do it calmly, out of habit.

So is my calmness a product of nature or nurture? I'm sure part of it must have been in me, is who I am, but I also know that I have trained myself not to show what I feel (except through a variety of facial expressions when I feel like it). I value reservedness and self-possession. This I blame on reading too much English (as opposed to American) books since childhood, and on my admiration for Sherlock Holmes. I don't particularly think that the ability to conceal your feelings is a good thing, I just think that it's useful. Anyway, this thing has become a liability for me as public speaker. I don't know how to (or am usually VERY unwilling to, out of habit) let my emotions get through during my speeches.

Told you. My stone face has been there forever. It's not the best thing to have on all occasions, BUT it has helped me enormously in being able to speak in public without my hand shaking, etc. It looks like confidence, but it's just habitual feelingless-ness.

And that is why this post is called "How to speak in public fearlessly", not "How to be an effective public speaker". Two very different things.

(Really good) mango-flavoured ice-cream that I bought
because the MingoMingo shop at Aeon AU2 was closed.
(This was right after our Shawwal gathering last year.)


So how do you stop being scared of speaking in public?

Well to put it shortly, you crush your fears by identifying their reasons, and then putting them out one by one.

But first, remember this: It's all in the mind. You, and nobody else, must believe that you can do it, and do it well.

#1: Ask yourself, "Why am I scared?" 

You may be afraid of speaking in public for many reasons. Identify those reasons. 

Are you afraid that you can never be as good a speaker as this brother or that sister? [You're not them, so stop trying to be them. You have your own strengths, play them up.]

Are you scared of making eye contact with the audience? Are you held back because you think your English (or whatever language) is not proficient enough? Are you afraid you might forget what you need and want to say once you're in front of everyone? Are you scared of what people will think of you?  

Let's face it, most of our fears of public speaking come from imagining the audience's bad reception of our speech. We'll deal with this in tip #3.

Once you know why public speaking scares the wit out of you, you're one step closer to conquering those fears.

#2: Turn the fear around 

Do this by anticipating every possible failure that can happen, and dealing with each one. Prepare yourself well. Nothing conquers fear better than solid preparation. First, master your topic. If you know that there's nothing you don't know about that topic, do you think you'll be afraid of people questioning your speech/presentation's contents? Sure you won't. Okay of course you can't possibly know EVERYthing about anything, but do what it takes to know as much as possible.

Second, deal with your weaknesses realistically. Nobody's perfect so stop comparing yourself to other students/people. Compare yourself with yourself, it'll be healthier for your self-esteem. Improve the weaknesses you have one-by-one, so that your new self will be better than your old self.

For example, if you have problems with speaking fluently in English, try rehearsing the topic in front of a friend you're comfortable with. The aim here is not to perfect your English overnight, but to increase your confidence in using the language skills you already have. Listen to me: perfect language does not make a perfect presenter. I'm saying this because I have listened to MANY friends expressing their awe at the wonderful presentations of their class-mates, and when I ask them "Why are their presentations good?", they tell me, "Because they can speak English confidently." It's OK to admire a person's good language, but remember remember, it isn't everything! So if your English is not as good as theirs, do not think for an instant that you cannot be a good presenter or public speaker. Personally, I have seen numerous awesome presentations, whose presenters did not speak perfect English or Malay. They were still awesome.

Finally, imagine the worst thing that can happen if you flunk the presentation. What, you'll get low grades? Your class-mates will think you're a loser? The lecturer will hate you? I don't think so. Well, actually the worst thing that can happen to any of us in any situation is if Allah hates us. It never is the end of the world unless and until Allah hates us. So let's put the situation in perspective.

Even if, after all your efforts at improving your public speaking skills, you still don't seem to make any difference, that less-than-okay presentation wouldn't have made you a lesser person. There will be other chances at improving, insha Allah. Keep your head up.

#3: The audience are not your judges.

This is easy. Put yourself in the audience's shoes. You were in the audience countless times. You've watched so many of your friends and class-mates presenting. Remember how you felt? Some of them are very good, some of them not as confident. The thing is, you don't really care how good or bad their presentation was, do you? You don't judge them. They were simply another class-mate/group who came forward to share their knowledge about the topic they got from the lecturer. So why on earth would they judge you when you it's you turn to present? No, they wouldn't, really. You're just imagining things.

So loosen up, imagine that all of them are your close friends, and you're just going to tell them about those  shoes you bought at the Jusco sale. And that new tudung whose colour doesn't really match your baju kurung, dammit. Should've just stuck to black outfits. Shopping for matching outfits is real torture.

All right back to public speaking. Your audience are normal people like you, and you're just going to share with them what you'd learned about Mohammad Hatta and his role in Indonesian politics. And now you know that "Bung" Hatta swore not to get married until Indonesia was granted independence, and he fulfilled that promise...a fact that most of your classmates probably don't know yet. So see? You can tell them.

 Cornflakes and very cold Milo, my ultimate comfort food.
This was over a semester ago, when my desk still had some space for a meal.

#4: Visualize the best things happening

Okay. Picture this:
You are 100% prepared. You speak confidently and clearly. Your PowerPoint slides are perfect. You look at the audience as you speak. The audience is eating up your words. They ask you intelligent questions, and you answer them equally intelligently. You finish up on time. They applaud you at the end. You get full marks for your presentation.

All I'm saying is, dream about it! Then make your dream come true. When you visualize yourself in great situations, you can already see yourself making it happen...and that means you're halfway towards realizing it, because you already believe it could happen. It's all in the MIND, remember? 

#5: Be comfortable.

Wear clean, neat, and appropriate clothes that you feel comfortable in. Shoes, too. Don't over-accessorize. This should feel like an everyday thing, not like a my-life-depends-on-these-10-minutes event.

#6: Take control of the room/hall.

This is your presentation, you are the one who will be controlling the flow of events during that 5 or 20 minutes of your turn. Take charge! Once you step up front, look around at all four corners of the lecture hall/wherever the venue is. Let the audience know that you are the one they have to listen to now.  

Are you scared there are people in the audience who are cleverer that you, those people who always seem to know everything about anything? Whatever. You completed this study. You discussed and reviewed that topic with your group members. You learned enough about that subject, so much that you actually made a PowerPoint presentation about it. It's your territory for the next 5 or 20 minutes. Conclusion: you have every right and ability to take control of the audience's attention, and you should.

P.S.: If the lecturer knows more than you do and points out your little mistakes here and there, be happy because that's his/her job.

#7: Criticism is food for improvement

Don't be afraid of criticism. Most of the time after your speech or presentation is over, you'll just return to your seat, no questions from anyone. But occasionally, you'll get a piece or two of advice (or criticism, if you like), from your lecturer or your audience. So what? It won't kill you, and what doesn't kill you will make you stronger. Friedrich Nietzsche said that, and I agree.

If you do get criticized, you'll feel crushed, MOMENTARILY. After that moment, GET UP. Take the criticism as constructive advice, USE IT to improve yourself. And then life will go on as usual.

P.S.: If you've ever debated, you'll learn to get used to it, trust me. We get criticism (positive and negative) after every round. And if it's a silent round (where the judges don't announce the results or give their feedback), you're taught to go find them yourself later, and ASK for criticism. Helps thicken your skin. But I don't really recommend joining debates unless you have plenty of weekends to spare.

So don't let your fear of criticism hold you back. Prevent it from coming at all by preparing well, that's what I say.

I ran out of pictures of yellow food.
These are my newly washed shoes.

#8: Remembrance of Allah calms you down.

This is a no-fail step. Remember Allah through good times, and He will help you through the bad. And if you're scared, or overcome with stage fright jitters, ask Him to make it all right. He will.

Also, don't forget that asking for salawat on the Prophet (SAW) is a tremendous healer of diseases (or symptoms), whether physical, mental, or spiritual. 

I hope this helps! Have fun with your next presentation/public speech!