Wednesday, August 25, 2010

What I learn from 'Newsweek ranking'.

TV3 newscaster was beaming proudly as he announced that Malaysia sits at the 37th spot of the best countries in the world, and 3rd in Asia after Japan (9) and Singapore (20). The ranking was based on five set criteria - education, health, quality of life, economic dynamism and political environment.

Number 37, not bad I reckon, but after looking at the list again, I started to ponder; living in Israel (22) is better than Malaysia? Where Hamas' bombs and rockets will explode on you anytime? I'm not so sure.

So, what I learn from the Newsweek ranking is ultimately, be greatful to Allah's blessings - wherever we are. Saudi Arabia is at number 64, but it does consist of Mekah and Madinah. So, is Italy (23) the home to Pope is better than Tanah Haram (the holy land)? Our choice and judgment do depend on our values - all the time, everytime. I might think the handmade beads that I sew on Alwani's dress is fantabulous, but others might think it's horrendous! So, don't be offended when others say negative things, remember this: they have different values than us.

Another point that I learn from this is that though we are at a good spot, reflection is needed. Let me ask you a question. Are we really better than Pakistan(89)? Though our spot in the Newsweek ranking is way better than them, at least, babies in Pakistan perished because of the aftermath of the raging big flood, not because people dumping newborn babies as if they were discarded thrash in the sewage, river or drains.
Yes, the Pakistanis are scrambling for food crumbs since they do not have animals to slaughter for food; but even with the abundance of food here, especially in the Ramadhan bazaar, a father actually slaughtered his own 3 year old son, for whatever reason. Ironic, isn't it just ironic? The main point learned here is that, as parents, it's essential to educate Islamic knowledge to our children and live our lives according to the Quran and sunnah as best as we can. Lead by example. Don't leave it all up to the teachers at school to teach them all, please...

I personally agree with the closing note in the Newsweek article, "There are plenty of different ways to look at it".. and the above are just the quick samples. Hence, wherever we are, urge ourselves to seek positive perspectives of looking at life. Insha Allah, we will always be contented, though we are in Burkina Faso (100).


Friday, August 13, 2010

What I learn from 'Al Fateh: Tadika Mindaku Experience'.

Since my husband is undergoing a course in Taiwan, the kids and I are going to spend a good length of time in Seremban. Thus, we decided that it's wise to find Al Fateh a kindy for him to continue his routine, such in Kuala Terengganu. Alhamdulillah, Ampangan, Seremban offers alot of private kindergartens and after surveying a few, my Mak and I are satisfied with Tadika Mindaku, situated 2 minutes away from my parents' place in Seremban.

What I learn is, as parents, we need to survey the kindy or schools before registering our child(ren). This is because, I had another kindy in mind, but I was pretty surprised to discover that at this particular kindy (during our survey time), the staff were bathing the children (without any single string on the body) at the front tap of the kindy's entrance. I don't think I'll allow my Al Fateh to make a 'free-show', thanks, but no thanks. Hence, making sure that they have proper teachers, syllabus and certified by Social Welfare Department are crucial. In addition, Mom's instincts always work best.

Changing schools is hard, especially for a 5-year old boy. Different atmosphere, new teacher and friends, new routines, new language (Ganu vs Nogoghi... =p), hence, we as parents need to prep his mind set early. We reminded him gently about this move 2 weeks before he left Tadika Nurfa UMT, in Kuala Terengganu. At first, he was agitated, but reasoning with the child and enforcing positive thinking and new fantastic experience helped. He did look forward for the move.

Another aspect that I learn is pre-consultation with Al Fateh's future teacher. I use this meeting to tell Teacher Aishah and Teacher Marilynn on what to expect from Al Fateh, academically and behaviour-wise. I brought evidence of his work from previous school. Why? This is to give the teacher the idea on what work he has/hasn't done, hoping that Al Fateh wouldn't be shocked with a work which could be too hard or complicated, especially on his first few days at school (if it's too easy, it wouldn't matter much). I don't want him to be embarassed in front of his new friends and chicken-out from the entire activities at school, because of my lack of sensivity. And I must admit that Tadika Mindaku teachers are very alert and sensitive on this. A big thank you!

For the first few days at school, I gave Al Fateh some simple tasks daily. Most lingers around the new people and surroundings. After school each day, I'd asked him the tasks questions. He enjoyed (and still enjoy) this sessions. The simple tasks were;
  • Remember the name(s) of your teacher;
  • Remember 2 friends' names; 
  • What did you learn at school today?
  • Is there any interesting lesson at school that you can teach adik-adik (the siblings)?
  • Compare and contrast with Tadika Nurfa.
  • Any interesting 'drama' at school?
Another point that I learn is, the issue of uniform. Though the teacher advised me not to buy the uniform, since he has missed half of the year, I insist on buying him one. The bigger issue behind wearing a uniform is unity. I want Al Fateh to feel belonged. To have him feel 'I'm one of them' and not feeling left out worth more than the RM25 uniform.

Lastly, in regards of post-weekend syndrome. Al Fateh has a BIG issue on not wanting to go to school on Monday (or Sunday in Terengganu). I need to understand that children have Monday Blues, too! Though it's hard not to push him to stop whining and get ready quickly (or both of us will be late), I need to control myself from being extra-pushy and super-angry, since this will make him hate school (and Ummi, too). I try my very best to be firm, and so far, I never give him leeway to miss school.

When the camera is good to take photos, I'll upload some photos of Al Fateh in his pink-maroon uniform, insha Allah.

Toodles for now!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

What Iearn from 'Pre-Hajj Preparation'.

Since recieving our waiting list letter from Tabung Haji for Hajj this year, both my husband and I have started reading books as well as asking friends and family members whom are Haji and Hajjah in order to prepare ourselves for this big event in our lives. Talking to those who have performed Hajj is wonderful since they can give a wonderful recount of their experiences and tips of dos and donts.

Tonnes of theoretical books on Hajj readily available on shelves; but one that caught my attention was in Bahasa Malaysia, entitled Haji Muda (Young Hajj) by Ridzwan Bakar. His writing is casual and practical. Masha Allah, I learned alot from him.

Many advise us to mentally and physically prepare ourselves for Hajj, in order to obtain optimum worshipping (ibadah) experience that will give high impact in our lives.

What I learn from my readings and private chats is firstly, have a mental picture on what you are going to do and where is it going to be done. I did a sketch on movements of activities, from home-to-home. It helps to give me some clues of what should be done. I've only been to Mekah and Madinah for Umrah but not for Hajj. Understanding the terms Haji Ifrad and Haji Tamattuk in practical ways will make our sketch differs. Since for now, we're still in the waiting list and wouldn't know about flight details till the 3rd week of Ramadhan, I have 2 sketches of movements of activities, but we really hope that we can manage to perform Haji Ifrad, insha Allah. (I will try to upload the sketches once I have sorted the non-charger issue of my camera, insha Allah)

Secondly, what I learn is to make a compilation of prayers (du'a) to be learned and recited during Hajj (or wherever you are). Since we have ample time to think of what to ask from Him now, find those prayers, preferably in Arabic with Malay (or other) translation for full comprehension of what we asked for and more in depth feeling when we ask directly from Him.

I compile the prayers and put it all in one, single book in order for me to manage them easily. For practical reasons, I dont think it would be convenient to open 3-4 books in the mosque (or even at home, too), so I literally cut and paste (and sticky tape) the du'as onto one book. I also inserted the prayers recited after all the sunnah prayers, i.e, Tahajjud, Tawbat, Hajaat, Ishraaq, Dhuha, Witr, Istikharah; (since I don't memorise any of them!).

The other du'as comprises all, from broad hopes of mine to teeny weeny wishes and dream that I want to ask from Him. I list them all, and I mean everything that I want to ask. When it's on paper, I find that my prayers are more concentrated, since I didnt have to sit and think hard to recall of other du'as to recite (I have this problem of think and think of more du'as while my palms are still at par with my chest!!)

Compiling is an issue, but practice reciting them is another. I find it useful to go through my 'compilation of du'as' book to ensure that I'm fluent in reading the Arabic verses of the prayers. These Ramadhan nights do help in offering fantastic practice sessions. Furthermore, by going through it often, it gives me ideas to add more prayers. What I learn is, when you plan things, and the time is in your hand, you don't find doing anything stressful, insha Allah.

Another matter that I learned from those who have performed Hajj is, rehearse on sunnah deeds as early as possible.  The sunnah deeds includes, sunnah prayers, giving charity (sadaqah), Monday and Thursday fasts etc. This will make the Hajj process more beautiful and less burden as we have learned and 'mastered' those sunnah deeds, and we don't have to start from scratch while we are in the University of Baitullah, insha Allah.

Start a routine exercise. Not a huge, Biggest Loser regime, but only 20-30 minutes brisk walking daily. This is to ensure that we are prepared to endure the many steps that's going to be taken in the events of tawaf, sai'e, stoning of the Jamrah, and even the routine trips from the Masjidil Haraam to the hotel. The lesson is to be prepared.

We dream of a high quality Hajj, filled with fantastic times connecting with The Creator. I know that my preparation may not be as great as others,  but I pray to Allah that He'll accept my prayers and allow us to be His VIP guests at Baitullah... aamin ya Rabb!


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

What I learn from ‘the Hajj Health Check’ – Episode I

August 3rd, 2010 was eventful for Al Fateh and I. Al Fateh entered a new pre-school in Seremban. My Mak was a bit anxious for her grandson, but I know and believe that Al Fateh could carry himself well, insha Allah (and he did, alhamdulillah). Secondly, the event that I’m going to give my mini recount would be the Hajj Health Check session in Klinik Kesihatan Seremban 2.

Hajj health check is a compulsory pit stop for all who intend to go to Makkah for Hajj. For me, after undergoing the session (as well as being a devoted follower of the Amazing Race series), this health check session was an elimination round for few. The Bakal Haji (BH) or the pilgrims of Hajj-to-be went under various health tests i.e. blood pressure level, glucose in blood level, various blood tests, BMI was taken, lung (semput) test and in the end, if you passed all this, a Meningitis jab would be rewarded and your Hajj health book will be ticked either in the yellow or green box.

If the red box is ticked, you’re eliminated. Come again next week for another go, or try again next year.

Yes, it was a daunting experience for some. And I really pity them, a couple cried after leaving the MD’s hub, shaking their heads to another family member. The first lady was given a tick in her red box because her BP was tremendously high, even after taking medication. The second gentleman was still in shock to know that he was diagnosed to have TB.

What I learn here is that HEALTH is a big issue to consider if one is planning to perform the Hajj. It is not only our physical health, our mental and imaan as well as bank account health must be healthy, too. We need to have regular exercise and have good food intake in order not to get eliminated. We need to upgrade our wajib and sunnah deeds. We need to make sure that we have the minimum of RM9980 in our Tabung Haji account plus a couple of extra Ks as contingency (please refer to a fab book, Haji Muda for more info). Not to forget, enough money in our CIMB Islamic to support the three munchkins who are going to stay with Nenek and Atok for nearly 2 months.

Hence, the second lesson is to plan your Hajj (account) journey. We registered with Tabung Haji Ampangan a week after our solemnization (akad nikah) which was days after the 15th of August, 2004. I was determined to deposit my husband’s gifts to me (dowry/mas kahwin and part of wang hantaran) as well as all the money collected from the guests who came to our wedding in Seremban to be the basis of our accounts. We had 2011 as the projected year to be Hajj pilgrims. (A huge THANK YOU to all who were very generous in making our Hajj dreams come true! Insha Allah, we’ll make sure your gifts to us are ‘worth it’). Just to inform you, we are actually in the waiting list this year, hopefully with your support and help, we'll be able to perform Hajj at the end of 2010, insha Allah.

Back to the topic; remember the red, yellow and green box? I learned one possible solution on how not to be eliminated at the Hajj health Check pit stop. Plan to perform Hajj at our healthier and younger age. This is not a sure solution, but at least, with His grace, the old-age illness i.e high BP, diabetic, gout, sore ankles and knees, backache etc are far isolated from our health. In addition, our energy level is still high, insha Allah. With the strength that we still have, we pray that we can help others during the pilgrimage which in a way will be the ‘added value’ for us to present to Allah. Furthermore, from my little observations, those who belong in the age group of lower than 40 had a very low tendency of being eliminated. All were granted ticks in the green and yellow boxes, Alhamdulillah.

I’m happy that I am still in His ‘Amazing Grace’ journey. (Ya Allah, please accept my husband and I as your VIP guests to visit Baitullah this year, and please ease our Hajj journey throughout.. aamin ya Rabb).


Monday, August 2, 2010

What I learn from 'Organising my EndNotes'

EndNote is a fantastic software that I visit frequently. However, I did not find time to actually explore it. I will one fine day, but not today. For now, I'm happy to toss in all the journal articles I've inserted in my small steps of fattening my review and arguments of literature. That's what I promised myself, I need to update all readings on a daily basis. I promised myself that I'll read at least 3 journals and review them using Pat Thomson's methods:

  • write the argument of the article using 4 bullet points.

  • write the evidence using only 3 bullet points.

  • write the epistemological stance - 1 bullet.

  • identify how is it relevant to my own research.

  • identify 1 interesting point and 1 point of disagreement (be critical)

I usually type this in Word doc, and then I'll link this doc to my EndNote. I've found this method very useful, because usually, when I first read it, some articles weren't actually-seemed-to-be-useful, but as time goes by, I actually needed those articles to answer my supervisor's query. This is what I learned, the need of Knowledge Management.

This is what I'm 'physically' aiming for.
Rabbi yassir walaa tu 'assir ya rabbi.

For now, I'm contented in using EndNote to be my 'physical' knowledge manager. I use EndNote to use knowledge; label it, place it (systematically), locate it, exploit it and delete it (make sure you have actually received your degree before doing this). I don't really enjoy doing this messy thing at the beginning but being systematic makes my research grow, my knowledge puffed and I thank Allah for that. For granting me clear mind (and a bit nutty to!)

So far, this method works for me since we (the Azza PhD team comprising Dr G and a few nutty researchers) believe I'm not reviewing my journals like the kopitiam menu system - listing all the hardwork of others in systematic way. I'm actually arguing authoritively and writing evaluating statements. I must thank Rosie Douglas and Ruby Rennie of Edinburgh Uni who taught me to do this nearly a decade ago! I have to be frank though, I did not have a clue on what they were talking about during the final year dissertation tutoring sessions, but now I truly do! Truly, badly, deeply do. (I remembered how Ruby gave me a journal to synthesise. I don't even now what synthesise means at that point!)

I'm sorry for other readers who aren't in the research world. Lack the audience awareness, I know,  which is very bad! And I'm sorry. But I learn better when I can explain what I understand to myself in simple words. And I thank you for sharing this platform with you!

p.s: My first entry from Nottingham Uni PhD workroom, which causes the academic-ness of this entry!
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