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Yang Safia On Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Initially I didn't want to share this story so publicly because I knew that I will come off as way too emotional for my own liking. Also possibly I know that people are not going to like what I have done considering that these kids are only 14-years old. I choose to share because I want to remember this incident 1 month to 20 years from now when I'm teaching a set of new students or raising my own children.

Today started like any other day. The weather was a lot better in Kapar because it wasn't too hot and quite windy. I went to my weekly teachers' meeting and later invigilated the Bahasa Malaysia test for Kelas Peralihan kids. The second class I entered was my most challenging class and the last class of the whole of Form 2. The last class I had with them went well and the kids who proved to be problematic before have been "sorted" by either the Discipline board or me. I was expecting good things. The moment the test was over, the kids screamed and it went slightly chaotic. I was able to tolerate it (even though the usual well-behaved ones were starting to act up...I reasoned because they were glad that the test was over) until I saw *Rubina grabbed a boy's butt and smacked it. She was screaming with glee and her friends commended her actions.

I called her over and asked her to explain what just happened.

She denied that it happened.

I got angry.

I pressed on and said, "Do you think you would like it if he grabbed your butt? Or what about your breasts? You need to respect him as well. Look at me. I'm talking to you and you're not looking at me. Tell me. What if he grabbed your breasts?!" She rolled her eyes at me.

"Don't you have any self-worth?! Do you think your mother would have approved your behaviour just now?!" She shrugged and kept looking away.

I let her go when kids from next door started hanging by the class windows and everything just got ten times more chaotic. As I tried to bat them off, I heard a shriek and saw that the boy (who got his butt smacked) and his friends were invading *Rubina's personal space. There were forming a circle around *Rubina and her friends. One boy had *Rubina pushed up against the wall with his both hands on either side of *Rubina's head. Her friends were busy shrieking in fake fear.

That was when

I screamed so loud that the kids next door ran back to their class and everyone in my class went back to their own seats. The last time I raged was at the start of the year to my Form 4 boys. Honestly just as I am writing this, thinking what happened today got me boiling again.

I went up to the boys and gave them a piece of my mind. I don't remember what I said but they gulped. Then I went to *Rubina and her friends and said, "Keep behaving the way you are and one day, you are going to get raped!" Said would have been an understatement because I straight up screamed into their faces.

Then I started to pace around the classroom and delivered possibly my most heartfelt, angry and disappointed speech ever in my life. They probably think I'm nagging but I gave them a reality check. I know there are certain things I should have kept from them considering that are ONLY fourteen but let's just say these are the things I am constantly worried about but never really shared with them. First I addressed at how they were behaving with the opposite sex. Now before you think I am overreacting or being an uptight conservative, I blew up because that particular incident was the culmination of various misbehaviour between the boys and the girls. I glared or tsk-ed when the boys would pull the girls' hair or when the girls' hit the boys with their books. Just last week, I caught *Rubina and her friends skipping my class because they were in an empty classroom with a group of boys. Also it did not help that at today's meeting, the school board shared with us the news of a Form 2 boy from our school who got trialled at juvenile court for rape. I admit, I didn't think too much of it at the time but clearly it affected a lot more than I realized seeing how I blew up at my kids today.

As I told them about respecting each other's personal spaces, one boy grinned and mumbled, "Main-main saja Cikgu..." (We were just joking around, Teacher...)

"You might be joking now but when you turn sixteen, one of you is going to file a report about being sexually harassed or worse, RAPED by your own friend!" Then I told them about the story of my own sixteen-year old student who got sexually harassed by a boy (of whom I teach as well) while his friends watched. It all started when she thought he was only joking around. It started with a poke at her side or hair pulling but things progress. In another case, I caught a girl who brushed me off because I "overreacted" when a boy grabbed her breasts as she screamed her head off in what now I call fake fear.

Then I went on to talk about their futures. You see, a lot of my kids have part-time jobs and what this does to them is that these jobs boost up their egos. RM 200-400 is a lot to a 14-year old and this makes them uninterested in their education. Here's the reality: In a low socio-economic community such as Kapar, jobs like technicians with the promised salary of RM1000 are considered the crème de la crème. And I told these kids, RM1000 sounds a lot of money right now but when one of your family members is sick or you want to live in KL, RM1000 is nothing. So unless you want to help yourself and your family, you better buck up and learn.

Going back to just behavioural things, the sense of humanity in Kapar is deteriorating. I might sound dramatic but that is just how I feel right now. What I can do right now is to really speed up on my second year initiative (which is addressing the behavioural issue here but I will talk about this later when I'm ready). Honestly even if I can't successfully teach them to read and write (because they can't at 14-years old), I will prevent them from making stupid decisions. Fact: The boy who got his butt smacked can't even read and recognize alphabets and I just found out that he got himself a tattoo. 

They will not be making any more bad decisions as long as I'm teaching them. Not. Anymore.

Yang Safia On Friday, August 1, 2014

Synopsis  from

We are the Liars.

We are beautiful, privileged and live a life of carefree luxury.

We are cracked and broken.

A story of love and romance.

A tale of tragedy.

Which are lies?

Which is truth?

You decide.


“Goddamnit, this is good.” I said to my sister as I reached the last few pages of We Were Liars (WWL). She merely grunted because she was fully immersed in her 3DS game. I’m not really sure on how I should approach this review because it is very hard to talk about anything without ruining the experience for future readers. First off you have to read this book. I implore you. And this is coming from a person who reads a ton of YA and has become so jaded over the past year that she has a bookshelf of unread books and wants to read them but can’t sit with a book for more than 15 minutes. I now have the attention span of a goldfish, when it comes to books, thanks to the smart-gadgets I have around me. So maybe just maybe WWL is the answer to my fried brain that still craves a good story but doesn’t have the capacity to assess elaborate pieces of literature.

We Were Liars is not a big book. At 225 pages, it is a quick read and I nearly consumed the whole thing when I first bought it. I’m glad I didn’t though because it felt like it was part of a plot trick that E. Lockhart is trying to pull. First I need to clarify that this is my first time reading any of Lockhart’s works so I’m not familiar with her style. Although I have to commend her writing style because it is concise and clean. I believe that it is her writing style that makes it a fast read. I would even go as far to say that her writing is beautiful and has a hint of nostalgia that I can't quite put a finger to. She doesn't dawdle with useless details like we are often associated with Young Adult novels.  Okay maybe that is a broad claim but if you decide to read a YA novel that is about the rich, you are going to face a sh*iload of brand name-dropping. Not with WWL though, Lockhart does not waste time. She has a story to tell and it is important. All we know that the Liars own a private island and somebody happened during Summer 15.

Lockhart's characters are not BIG characters with BIG personalities. Their personalities are distinctive but not overly pronounced. I would say that Lockhart keeps her characters subdued so that the focus is not taken away from the plot. I'm the type of reader who enjoy her characters and look forward to falling in love with them. So am I bummed that Lockhart doesn't really give me space to do so? A bit maybe but all is forgiven in exchange for a good story.

One major tip when reading WWL:

Go slow. 
Savour the little details. Resist the need to finish it in one sitting because that's what Lockhart wants you to do. Because you will miss things. To avoid from rereading the book (if you're lazy like me), really think about where Lockhart is taking you with what she is presenting at the moment. I promise you, it won't disrupt the experience but it will save you time from flipping through the pages again once you reach the end. In fact because I went slow, I really appreciate the ending. A lot of people seemed to be frustrated with the ending because it didn't make sense to them. Why? Because they missed things.

Final thoughts:

a) This can be turned into a movie. A beautiful one.

b) If I have an ideal classroom where kids can read and want to learn, I would teach this book. It's small enough that we can finish it in a couple of sittings but has an abundance of materials that we can discuss. It would be nice if we can geek out together over this book.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

Obsession Rating: 5 out of 5


Yang Safia On Saturday, July 5, 2014
I can't believe I'm 24 already. It felt like it was just yesterday when I was chilling at my flat in Toroa, youtubing a Big Bang concert when the clock turned midnight and I turned 20. Usually birthdays for me are very low-key affairs. After living in NZ by myself, birthday celebrations were almost non-existent so this year's was really fun and memorable. Ever since I came back, I feel so blessed to meet so many new people who are nothing but amazing.

How this whole birthday celebration came about was my collabs' doing. Yi-Yang asked what my plans were for my birthday and I said that I was looking forward to spend a whole day in bed and sleep. He was like, "No, that can't happen. We're throwing you a birthday party." I found the idea quite embarrassing (Ok, I felt very paiseh la) at first but I got excited quite quickly after that. I've already had plans to travel two days before my birthday so to have that party to look forward to on top of travelling was too exciting!

I arrived to the party with 90s boy band playing in the background and a group of friendly faces all setting up the food. I wanted it to be a potluck so I made some pasta. It has been awhile since I cooked so that caused me a lot of stress. Rachel saw that my energy was depleting fast so she quickly got me coffee. Haha! Got to love that woman.

Rachel brought her bestfriend, Evelyn and she gave me these red eggs as a present. Apparently it's a tradition in her family to give hard-boiled red eggs on birthdays. It was all too sweet of her really because I just met her!

Step-by-step process of eating a hard-boiled egg

I adore this woman. Rachel and I first met at a TFM buka puasa event exactly a year ago and we were fast friends. Since we travelled together a few days after this party, it is safe to say that this girl is definitely one of the best travel partners I've ever had!

Obligatory Yangs picture! It was really sweet of Yang and his family to open their home to us.

Alia the Mak Cik!

I don't even care if I look chubby in this picture. This is love!

These two were responsible for most of the laughter that night! These guys are too funny!

Obviously I had to have my childhood friends at the party!

TFM Fellows/Family

If you can't tell by now, it was a Shakespearean-themed birthday party.

Possibly my favourite picture of the night. These girls have been through different chapters of my life and still remain in my life until today. Aside from my family, I am who I am today because of their friendship.

"Feed the boys!", they said.

After eating, we played some party games. This picture below was the last game we played which was Mafia.

Personally...I feel that I grew the most as a person this year. I feel so blessed to be able to go on this journey and learn so much about my country and life in general. Yes, I still have my insecurities about the future (who doesn't?) but honestly I have nothing but excitement for what life is going to throw at me. Here's to turning 24!