Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Wishes 2010

To all my Christian friends and readers,

May the festive mood of Christmas fill your hearts with love and contentment throughout the day!  

To all the rest, especially those in Bristol :
Keep warm in this cold, wintry weather
Don't fret (yeah, you heard me correct!),
enjoy your white (and freezing :P) Christmas,
as snow doesn't come easy in this part of the land :P
Take those vits everyday
so that you keep flu at bay.
Enjoy your much deserved break
but don't forget to read those journal articles in bed ;),
Have a blast on Boxing Day, shoppers! :D
but spare some money for the gas (bills) shockers... :P
Cheers mate!

Tis the  season to be jolly... Fa la la la laaaa... la la la laaaa.... :)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Winter in Bristol

Winter came early this year.  That's what they say.  Some places up north have been blanketed by snow for weeks now.  From Scotland, to Wales, why, even London got a fair share of snow!  Bristol?? Yeah, it snowed a few times but nothing compared to last year.  Maybe not yet :).

last year ...

This year ...

Thankfully, snow has not disrupted our routine.  The children went to school as usual. 

Albeit the small amount of snow, some people could still find ways to enjoy it! :D

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Year-end School Performances

It's that time of the year when schools here have their year-end concerts.  Well, actually, 'concerts' was the term used to describe extravagant end-of-the-year students' shows, when I was in a missionary primary school in Malaysia, many, many years ago :P.  Here, people don't call these shows, 'concerts'.  Maybe because they are done in small scale ... small but sweet I would say :).  Terms aside, it's a day to celebrate the children's talents, whatever they maybe - acting, singing, or playing musical instruments.  Lines might be forgotten, lyrics might be incomprehensible, singing might be off-pitched, but what matters most is that the children gave their very best.  

Students' shows are not annual events here.  They have them all year round, during what the people here termed as 'special asssemblies'.  In my children's school, parents would be invited to watch their child perform during these assemblies.  No well-rehearsed tarians or over-dramatised sajak delivery :P.  Just wholesome performance by the kids.  Students from a particular year group would be reciting a poem, singing a song, or performing a short sketch in front of other students and parents.  Bloopers were treated as part and parcel of the performance, not something that mars the performance.  It's really a good way to build young children's self-confidence.   

On the other hand, assemblies in Malaysia would be long hours standing in the hot sun or in the dewan besar (still hot!), listening to speeches from the guru besar about students' discipline, school developments and achievements.  Come to think of them, the speeches were fit for parents rather than students... pretty mundane... hehehe!  Once in a blue moon, there would be some 'interesting' events like public caning.  But that's story for another day :).  For now, it's about my children's performances in their respective year-end assemblies.

My Amirul performed in a string orchestra (again, the orchestra here was so much small-scaled, compared to the one that I used to perform in a Malaysian primary school), while my Jon performed in a Nativity Play.   Amirul's violin performance brought back fond memories of my own performing days but I must say, mama played better! Hehehe!  Jon was a camel in the Nativity play.  His first performance was better because he didn't spot me in  the audience.  The second time around, he was a bit 'malu-malu kucing' as he was aware of mama videoing him. 

Check out Amirul's performance :D!

After days trying in vain to upload Jon's Nativity play, I resigned to the fact that that's not going to happen :(.  So, pictures instead of my dear cute camel and pictures of Amirul the budding violinist.

Jon, Julia and one of their class teachers

The singing camels

The song...

tarian - dance
sajak - poetry
dewan besar - main hall
guru besar - principal
malu-malu kucing - Malay idiom to describe shyness

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Bristol Protest Against Education Cuts

Yesterday, thousands of students in Bristol staged a protest against higher tuition fees and university cuts proposed by the government.  Around the country, similar protests were also reported in London, Cardiff, Manchester, Birmingham, Warwick, Leeds, Sheffield, Durham and elsewhere.

Peaceful protest in Bristol...
Photo credit: Matt Carey

Of course, me being hopelessly afflicted by Blogger's Syndrome, couldn't miss it for the world! LOL!  A friend cautioned me from going, fearing that it would be a breach of my akujanji and what not.  But I thought, why not?  I was not participating in an illegal political rally against the British government or most importantly, my country's government.  I was merely a curious bystander, but inspired all the same by those concerned Bristolians who were courageous enough to voice out their displeasure.  Bravo!

It was difficult not to get distracted by the event as my school was just seconds away from one of the gathering places - The Wills Memorial.  From our study room, we could hear chants and noises as people staged a walkout.  So, in the end I decided to check things out @ nyebok with some friends :P! 

From downtown...

... towards Wills Memorial

The mob...
... the cops

I would say the protest was pretty peaceful.  Not like the one in London.  Didn't witness any violence but my jaw did drop when I saw a familiar figure block a police van from moving.  Wow Becks!  Was that really you?!!  Could have captured those moments if I had my Nikon with me... Dang!!  So I had to contend with my Triple B.  However, the photos turned out grainy and hazy (see above :P) as I had accidentally meddled with the setting, in my excitement... Huhuhu!  Luckily Alex Sheppard and Matt Carey allowed me to upload their fab pics on my blog.  Thanks a million guys! :D

The mounties
Photo courtesy of  Matt Carey

The barricade
Photo credit:  Matt Carey

The banner... the price of  university education?
Photo credit: Matt Carey

English lessons revisited :)


alliteration :P

Pottermania, naturally :)... some muggles are getting pretty muddled alright :D!
Pix courtesy of Matt Carey

Nice one Alex!  I LIKE!!! :D

As an international student sponsored by the Malaysian government, I might not be directly affected. But with the current development, I'm quite sure that the Ministry will be looking elsewhere when it comes to sending Malaysian students overseas. As it is now, international students are paying triple the tuition fee paid by their local counterparts. With the hike, just imagine how much it's going to cost the Ministry ... Might as well send students across the causeway to the National University of Singapore (NUS) which is ranked 34th in the world! :).  Australia and New Zealand are beckoning, too :)

As for the gathering, I heard that it went on until about 5.30 pm.  No unpleasant incidents were reported apart from 4 arrests by the police. 

Wow!  What a day!  Lurkin' Lauren :P reporting from Bristol ...

Friday, November 5, 2010

Autumn @ Westonbirt Arboretum

"The best natural fireworks displays in Britain"

The brochure is not referring to a bunga api show here, but to the blaze of autumn colours in Westonbirt, the National Arboretum.  Arboretum is a place where a variety of trees are cultivated for scientific, educational and ornamental purposes.  In Malaysia, we have FRIM in Kepong.  The only difference is in  Westonbirt, we can take photos like nobody's business, but in FRIM there are charges for commercial photographers while photo-hobbyist have to report to the one-stop centre "to avoid problems with enforcement personnel" (as quoted from their website :P).  Doesn't sound so pixman-friendly, eh?  Sapa nak jawab tu...

Even though Westonbirt Arboretum was only 30 minutes away from Filton, we started out early in the morning to beat the crowd.  Hmm... come to think of it, with an entourage of 20 adults and even more kids, we are THE CROWD!  Heheh! 

All together now, say "Cis!" - pix credit:  Syafiq Zaqrin

Coming as a group, we managed to get discounted tickets:  children below twelve paid 2 pounds each, our spouses, 6 pounds; while students (us ladies:)) paid 5 pounds only. 

After paying for our tickets, the whole group made our way to Silk Wood.  This particular section of the arboretum is best visited during autumn when the leaves of the Japanese Maple trees turn from green, to yellow, red and finally brown, displaying the best of the season's splendour.

This part of the arboretum was also doggie-friendly.  So if you prefer a dog-free environment, the old arboretum would suit you better :). 

Some taking their time
to enjoy the morning walk ...

Others stop to pose for the camera ...

The kids were far ahead doing their activity...

I was busy as usual ...

"... nak buat dokumentari National Geographic ke?!"

My husband would normally have toot-tooted but this time around he had no time to poke fun at me because he was hard at work ...


... sketching a tree :P

Masa nilah pulak sibuk melukis...  I had to practically drag him to pose with me and the kids.  The Japanese maple  provided luxuriant red background :)

Bakal-bakal Dr., InsyaAllah :) - pix credit:  Asri

Tengah syok ambil gambar, tiba-tiba bateri mampus lah pulak!  Adoi!!!  Never thought that this would happen to me!!  I could still remember how I had sweetly declined when the Singaporean 'uncle' (elderly camera shop owner) tried to persuade me to buy an extra battery for my D5000, dismissing it as sales pitch.  Huhuhu... baruku tahu ... :P.  Luckily there was plan B (for Blackberry) :D.   Some of the pictures taken with my Triple B ...

We exited Silk Wood at noon and had our lunch near the carpark.  No pictures were taken of our picnic-cum-lunch as everybody (photographers even) was too famish to think of photos!  After lunch, some of us went home while others continued their autumn trail at the old arboretum.

Although I was satisfied with the experience, I was a bit disappointed I couldn't snap as many photos as I had wanted.  Luckily, another group of Malaysians went to the arboretum the next day and here are some fabulous pictures taken by my friend, Sarina :).

Weeping willow??  Sujud ke bumi ala Lailatul Qadr???

Macam ular sawa lah pulak dahan ni.  Nice one Ina :)

Reminds me of Zhang Yimou's cinematography :)

Comments and Tips:  Definitely a must-go place during autumn.  However, you might not be able to cover the whole area in one visit.  After all, it gets dark pretty early during autumn.  Come early in the morning as there is bound to be a long queue in the afternoon.  If you come in groups (10+), you save-up on ticket price.  Don't forget to bring lots of food and water.  Although there is a designated eating/picnic area near the arboretum entrance, it is good to bring along finger food, biscuits and chocolate to munch along the way.  All that walking do make you hungry and thirsty, even in the cold autumn weather.  Dress in warm, comfortable and nice clothes - you do need to look good in photos! :D  Wellies or water-resistant boots keep your feet drier compared to sneakers.  Sambil tu, bolehlah melaram dengan boots! :).  Most important:  don't forget to charge you camera's battery! :P.