Monday, October 19, 2009

Do as the Chinese

One day, before coming here, I accidentally stumbled upon a documentary on one of those 'learning' channels. It was about China's preparations before the world had its eye on them for the 2008 Olympics. One of the preparations is their English. Taxi drivers needed to pass English speaking exams if they wish to contribute during the summer Olympics. So did volunteers and the rest of China, for the matter. A segment of the show is about an English camp founded by a renowned lecturer in the country. I like his statement that goes something like this:

"We learn English not because we want to be subdued under them. We learn English because they are not ready to learn Mandarin...but we are!"

I think that statement is a very powerful one. English may be the universal language today but it is not the only language. Yes, to have English at both the tips of your fingers and tongues is important. But don't ever think that we have to put all the blame on ourselves and none on them as if they are that superior. The fact that most English-as-a-second-language speakers master more than two languages is a feat that we can be proud of.

Arrogant it may sound, but it is up to the person. If a person feels that native English speakers are the best in everything...then that is his wish. For me, I would ask the question "Why is it then that Asians still score much better in science and mathematics?" True, that when you're in their country you do as they do. But to feel inferior is wrong, if not plain ridiculous. You can survive here. Can they survive where you come from?


Friday, October 16, 2009


Last Monday we went to see Fareed Zakaria (CNN host and Newsweek editor) gave a talk at the Carnegie Music Hall. It was on the "solution" to the Middle East problem. The organizer was the Pittsburgh Middle East Institute. I didn't even know it exist. Anyway, we went because Fareed Zakaria is the writer to one of our textbooks, "The Future of Freedom." I like his ideas in the book, that's why I'm interested to hear him speak. We got the tickets for free as Pitt students. There were many delegates from Middle Eastern countries such as Oman and Egypt. Fareed Zakaria is a naturalized US citizen. He grew up in India. I don't know why but all through the one hour talk all I can think about is the fact that he's Indian. I know it is so unacademic. Oh wells. On another note, we had to watch "Gandhi", a movie, for our Politics class. So yeah.

When I first arrived here I have to admit I was intimidated the first few minutes I eavesdropped on a bunch of girls talking. Their accent is so different from what I was used to back home. We always think of those with accents are Australians, British, and Irish. Certainly not Americans. Plus I'm used to one before - Sofiya. But I didn't realize I'm going to be surrounded by Pia multiply by...I don't know, millions!

I wanted to fit in so much the first weeks here. I guess like Zaim, I envy those who could master the American accent in a few months. I started to wonder if I can too. Not to mention our savior the first few days, Aishah, also has a beautiful accent. I want to have it desperately!

But I don't know why, especially after my trip back from NYC, I realized that the American accent is not the only accent. While walking up to Times Square I heard the English language spoken in countless accents especially Indian and Arabic. And they sounded marvelous. I mean, they sounded exotic therefore kind of cool. It was then that I decided that I'm keeping my Malaysian English accent. What I should strive for is to speak grammatically perfect English :)

I also remember Shakira, the "Whenever, Wherever" singer, once said in an interview that she too at first tried to get rid of her Colombian accent for an American one. But then she decided that she wanted to be kind of an 'ambassador' to the United States thus be proud of her accent. And people like it. People find her exotic.

I have no idea what these Americans think of this Asian - Malaysian - with her different accent. But like Shakira, I'm proud of it. I'm proud of being Malaysian. I don't want to change the way I sound for nothing :)


Monday, October 12, 2009


Note: I forgot to mention that this trip was a VERY last minute thing. We had our Fall break but weren't sure of what to do during the 3 day weekend. On Thursday, in class, we just decided let's go meet Zaim. That night I called Zaim and made plans and Friday we went. In the car Diana called and decided to join us. It was really last minute.

Alright. Last Friday we rented a car for our first trip in the US of A. In typical Syaza style, I will recall as much as I can of what happened. First of all I won’t describe the mess we were in to get the car but just that it was hard.

At first we wanted to leave Lailee (our black cat) at home. But when we got back from class on Friday, she was waiting at the door, as usual, being all manja, as usual. We didn’t have the heart to leave her for two nights alone. So we quickly find a shop to buy a carrier for her and before you know it, she’s on her way to Jersey too :D

We left at 4 and arrived at 11 PM. See, it was my first time ever driving in the United States. What more I have to keep on reminding myself “Stay right!” So I drove around the speed limit allowable on the highway. But, every time I looked at the GPS our arrival time increases and increases. So I decided if the Americans can go way over the limit, I can afford a mile or two above the speed limit. And so we arrived a few minutes earlier. It was a SEVEN hour journey…well you could have guessed that already. So my point is, ibu, papa, I can drive to Terengganu dah tau! :p

When we arrived at Zaim’s house, one of his seniors had went home already :( There were a few left and we were introduced to Aishah, Hanis, Mida, Atilia, Taufik, Zahid, and Najmi. They were nice especially so after we brought Lailee into the house. Zaim cooked Nasi Ayam for us and it was good, seriously. I never knew Zaim had talent in cooking. We were full and went to bed.

The next day around 9, we left the house (I left the girls’ house) towards Connecticut. The initial plan was to go to Yale first, then the Raya event but being me, I took a wrong junction into Bronx, and ended up arriving late in Connecticut so we decided on Yale later. The Raya event was…a sad thing for us, to say the least. We know no one there. The ‘VIP’ (JJ) was late. We were hungry. So. We left even before JJ got the chance to sit down. The best part: DIANA! Man I really miss seeing these Intians… After eating at the back room, we left for Yale. The interesting thing while at Yale is that when Zaim was taking picture of the dorm by putting his camera through the gate, a couple came up and swipe their student ID and actually ALLOWED us to go inside! It was wrong, of course, but they did, so we did! After Yale, NEW YORK, NEW YORK!

We arrived at Central Park around 6…I think. It was already dark and we were on the wrong side of the park where ‘live’ was on the other side. So we just took a few dark snapshots and moved on to Times Square. Yeah, we decided to walk because I was lazy to find another parking spot. While walking we took pictures of the horses, taxis, and New York at night :) Times Square was just as how all of us imagined. Exactly like the many times we’ve seen it on TV. The thing that caught my attention was the SEA of people. THAT was interesting, with backgrounds of flashing neon billboards. After Times Square we decided to walk along the famous 5th Avenue. We went back to the car and I drove us all to Grand Central Station. We had our dinner there and took more pictures.

The next day we were supposed to go out early to catch the ferry to Ellis Island and Statue of Liberty. But me being me…dahla minyak habis, I was still not used to the GPS commands. And once we arrived at the pier, the line was so long that we decided not to go since Diana had to catch her bus at 12.30 and we, Rassyid and I, need to get back to Pittsburgh. So more picture taking there. Lucky for us, we spotted Wall Street and walked our way there. Around 11.15 we’ve done enough picture taking so on the way to Diana’s bus station location, we passed the Empire State Building where Zaim wanted to go to so much. Oh, and we passed Ground Zero too. We said bye to Diana and took the highway back to Jersey to get that noisy black cat. Zaim took us to a Turkey restaurant for lunch. Oh boy, do I miss a halal cheeseburger! Around 2 we started to head back to Pittsburgh. We arrived at 8 (notice the one hour less than the way to Jersey :p) and went for dinner. Around 9 we were back home and I’ve been editing pictures and uploading and blogging and is seriously tired. Guess I need to go to sleep now. I’m not Diana :)


Saturday, October 3, 2009

Black Dots

White, as a bride's dress on
Her special day. White as the cloth
Keeping the dead bride
Warm in her grave; Color, the color of
Love is like a bird singing on the windowsill.
Singing only songs of bright
Sunshine. Successfully,
None as definable as a night
With only the Crescent Moon
Half smiling, half smirking. Playing
Along with lovers dancing,
At times reciting, mostly trusting,
In the park on a bench and
On the beach covered with ashes
Dust; Journey uncountable not
The distance but certainly of
Pure importance. Hope is the color
Of white in a milk.
In a milk.
In a.
To the newborn and the once born
For strength.
White. Is. Strength.