Programming vs Teaching

Our life’s a stage, a comedy: either learn to play and take it lightly, or bear its troubles patiently.

~Palladas~


How did I end up teaching?
Well, it was long decided since my undergraduate year.

Justification? I wanted an easy life, or so I thought.

Not everybody can teach. This was made clear when I went to University of Otago. The lecturers at the Department of Computer Science are all excellent teachers. By excellent I mean they can deliver the information really well, and can hold the attention of the students through out the lecture.

Those aren’t something easy to do. I try and try, and still couldn’t deliver well. It really is frustrating, especially when I see the faces of the students, the look they made for trying to understand my rambling.

Programming on the other hand is a career that I never considered at all, not until I did my master and PhD, and being an intern at ADInsruments. The more I spent my time writing a program, the more I’m in love with it.

Unexpectedly, programming gives the satisfaction that I longed for. I enjoy writing programs. I enjoy cracking my head solving problems. I really could spend my whole day just for this.

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Between programming and teaching, I prefer the former by miles.

Having said that, I would not abandon my responsibility as a teacher. I just need to learn to manage my time better so I could find time writing more and more programs, for personal satisfaction.

If Only it was Dumbo the Flying Elephant…

Everywhere man blames nature and fate, yet his fate is mostly but the echo of his character and passions, his mistakes and weaknesses.
~Democritus~

When my cousin and I decided to go to Krabi, the first activity that came to my mind was an elephant ride. There was no specific reason. I simply wanted to ride on it.

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Upon arrival, we searched for an agent and quickly signed up for a package, which of course included the elephant ride. The ride was our first activity in Krabi.

The very same afternoon we were transported to the Elephant trek. There, we waited for our turn. When the elephant came, we quickly hopped onto it, and that’s when the nightmare began.

Never would I imagine all the cruelties I had to witness throughout the ride!

Each time the elephant went out of path, or decided to take a little break, the herder would hit its head with a hammer. A HAMMER! How could you do such a thing to the poor animal? Regardless how thick the elephant skin is, that was really inhumane.

I was in constant fear throughout the ride. What if the elephant suddenly decided to rebel against its herder? Wouldn’t we ended up a mince meat?

I wonder how did it feel while carrying us.

All I knew, I regretted being part of it.

When Colors Changed…


Change is not merely necessary to life, it is life.
~Alvin Toffler~


It is now autumn in New Zealand.
The change of seasons always excites me.
Seeing the transition from one season to another, though it happens every year without fail, is still mesmerizing.

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When autumn comes, the green leaves turn to yellow. One by one they fall, leaving the branches naked, populating the ground.
When the strong wind blows, the fallen leaves fly, following the wind course.
Once in a while, you could see a street sweeper raking the leaves, clearing the road.

After two seasons have passed, the naked trees are once again covered in leaves.

Isn’t that how our lives are, full of upside down?
Even if your life has withered, to the point where you think all hope is lost, never despair.

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Spring will definitely come, as long as you never give up.

At the Top of the World

Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.

~John Lennon~


Okay. I was exaggerating a little bit.
It was just at the top of a hill.

Signal Hill.

Still, the view from the top, overlooking the Dunedin city was mesmerizing.
Especially when the sun was about to set.

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A perfect moment to freeze your memory in the form of a photograph.
An ideal place for moon sighting too, though I never took the chance to experience it.

Not just that, I missed the opportunity to trek up the hill.
Had a plan to do so with Maryam but somehow it remained a plan.

Oh well, it wasn’t meant to be.
Maybe because I took things for granted too much, thinking that I would forever be in Dunedin.

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Now that I’m far away from the land of the long white cloud, I’m sort of regretting it.

Lesson learned.

Grab the opportunity while you have the chance and never assume that you know your future.

Because you don’t.

Kindness Knows No Boundary

You cannot dream yourself into a character;
you must hammer and forge yourself one.~Henry David Thoreau~

Don’t talk to strangers.
A reminder that was instilled in our mind since we were kid.
I do understand where this sentiment is coming from. Especially in this era, where trust has to be earned.

But what I experienced in Fayyoum, Egypt showed that not everybody shares the same sentiment. There are people who demonstrated an absolute trust towards complete strangers without a drop of hesitation.

We were on the way to Qasr Qarun (will talk about this in another post) when our guide, Thaaqib, stopped at a village that we passed by to find a loo. He simply knocked the door of a random house but was greeted by a friendly family.

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Witnessing the nice hospitality, we decided to ask for a permission to use the loo as well. What awaited us after that was a nice, warm cup of tea.

The kindness didn’t stop there. The family insisted us to have lunch at their house!

We refused the offer at first, but they kept on insisting, and their sincerity made us give in to it. Accepting it turned out to be a blast. We were served with what I could describe as the most delicious homemade Egyptian dishes I ever tasted throughout my stay in Egypt.

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I wasn’t exaggerating when I said the dishes were super yummy!

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The home of the kind family.

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In the end, we could not visit the oasis in Fayyoum as scheduled, but what we gained instead was such a valuable experience.

This whole experience made me wonder – how could someone be so trusting?

I remembered clearly, a long time ago – an old woman carried a basket of snacks, going from one house to another trying to sell them to earn some money. There were times when she would ask for a glass of water. Given her age, it would make sense that she was exhausted from the long walk under the hot sun. Of course I would give her the drink. Even so, there would always be a speck of doubt within my heart.

What if, that was just an act?
What if…
What if…

The high crime rates in Malaysia simply prevents most of us from developing this good quality. Creative con artists are blooming rapidly, causing us to be on high alert most of the times.

Who could blame us for having such a thought?
Still, it would be great if we were able to live in such environment, peaceful and harmonious, with nothing to fear.

One could only dream.

When The Earth Shook in Anger

The great lesson is that the sacred is in the ordinary, that it is to be found in one’s daily life, in one’s neighbors, friends and family, in one’s backyard.
~Abraham Maslow~

The recent earthquake that struck Christchurch brought back the memory of the same disaster that killed almost 200 people in 2011.

It was shocking. And sad.

I was in Dunedin when the first big quake hit Christchurch in 2010. It was around 4am in the morning. I was still sleeping on my bed in my cozy sunroom when I was woken up by a sudden shake.

It was just the tremor that I felt. Those who actually experienced it must be really scared. I could still recall the trauma my friend (who was living in Christchurch at that time) had, who would jump in fear at the sound of the train passing by.

A year after that, another massive quake hit the same city. Though the magnitude was less that the previous year, the impact was multiple times worse.

Once again the tremor traveled down to Dunedin. This time, I was in my lab on the second floor. The building was swaying. My friends and I knew straight away that an earthquake had hit somewhere in the South Island.

We just casually talked about it. Even laughed. Another tremor was felt. Once again we weren’t really concerned. Earthquakes were pretty normal in New Zealand.

But the news that came right after that was hard to swallow. Lots of casualties and injuries. Buildings were destroyed. The danger was real. We weren’t able to laugh anymore.

I had a chance to visit Christchurch a few months after the disaster struck. It wasn’t even a pleasant view to see the ruins or the abandoned shops. Like I was in a ghost city.

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The destroyed buildings…
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The deserted street…
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The abandoned shops…
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New Zealand, a country that I hold dearly in my heart.
My thoughts and prayers are with you.

Cockles Hunting

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.

~Helen Keller~


One of my most favorite things to do back in Dunedin during low tide – collecting cockles in Aramoana. Why Aramoana? Maybe because the beach is pretty and it was easy to get there.

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Normally I would go during summer time, not because of the longer day but because of the temperature of the sea water. Summer – the hot weather – is only in the name. The water would still be freezing cold 😛

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Even so, it won’t stop me and others from collecting the cockles. It was really fun. Sometimes we arrived late after the low tide and the water level started increasing. In this case, it was really challenging to collect these cockles. If you’re lucky enough you’ll manage to get a half-bucket of them!

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There was one time when we encounter a man walking his dog by the roadside, close to where my car was parked. The dog’s size was super huge. Though most of us are really scared of dogs, some of us summoned the courage not to miss the opportunity to pose with the gigantic dog.

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The fun part didn’t end there. The climax of this activity was to turn those cockles into super yummy dishes!

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The cockles can be cooked in varieties of ways. The sea water made them salty enough, so be very careful if you want to add salt to your dish! 😛

Women’s Best Friend…

Being content creates simplicity in life.

~John Heider~


Ask me the question and I’ll say it’s chocolate!
Well, at least, it is true for me.

And speaking of chocolate, one of my favorites would be Cadbury, of course, the other would be Whittakers. There is no way for you to live in New Zealand for years and not loving Whittakers!

As a Cadbury lover, if you are in Dunedin, Cadbury Factory is a must-visit place. Not only you will learn how the chocolate is made, but you will also get free samples which are super delicious.

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Cadbury in New Zealand uses butter (unlike palm oil in Malaysia) and that results in the difference in its texture and taste – I guess. If you bring the chocolate back to Malaysia, it will melt in no time 😛

The inside of the factory is designed beautifully. After the tour, you are free to wander around, taking heaps of photos with different backgrounds and buy varieties of chocolates!

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For Muslims, they don’t have to worry much about the gelatine used as the ingredients since they use Halal gelatine. Marshmallow lovers could also purchase the Cadbury-produced product without a doubt.

Even if chocolate isn’t your best friend, this factory is worth the visit!

Memories of Ramadhan

Everything that happens to us leaves some trace behind; everything contributes imperceptibly to make us what we are.
~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe~

This year denotes the second time I spend a full Ramadhan (inshaAllah) in Malaysia. Still, it could not be compared to the years I spent in Dunedin.

The season. The food. The people. The environment. The feeling.

It was because of Ramadhan I met the best of people there. Having Iftar at the mosque itself strengthened my bond with other Muslims from different backgrounds. Since Iftar at the mosque is based on donation, every day there would be someone volunteered to cook, hence the variety of food every night.

I didn’t miss the opportunity to cook for the mass, of course with the help of friends. The last two Ramadhan in Dunedin, I’d had helped from my Iranian friends. Rather than a 100% Malaysian dish, it became a combination of Malaysian and Iranian delicacies.

Furthermore, the Iftar is not only for Muslims. Non-Muslim friends were also invited, to exposed them to the beauty of our religion.

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There was also a time when it snowed heavily, making it impossible for others to come due to the danger in driving. So the Imam combined both Maghrib and Isha’ prayers, and we had an early Tarawikh prayer that night. (Tarawikh there is normally led by an Imam from Saudi, and it will be 1 juzu’ per night).

When I worked at ADInstruments, it was also during Ramadhan. The office hours were from 9 to 5.30 pm. Since it was winter, the Iftar time would be at around 5ish. So I had to break the fast at the office, then rushed home to get my car and drove to the mosque. Luckily Sister Arien was kindly enough to save a plate of food for me every day.

Well, there were also other moments worth remembering. Like this one year where I decided to go back to Malaysia for Eid, and a night before my journey my purse was stolen. I lost my cash that was supposed to be used for my cab fare to the airport. For that year itself, I actually arrived in Malaysia on the morning of the first Eid, reached my hometown at noon, and spent the rest of the Eid sleeping till evening 😀

Ramadhan is not just about Iftar, right? There’s suhr as well. Normally I had suhr by myself and in 2012, Ramadhan fell at the same time as the Olympics. Because New Zealand is located at the rightmost position on the world map, I could watch the live telecast as early as 6am, and witnessed the amazing run of Usain Bolt who broke another world record.

Those were all precious memories that would never be forgotten.
Given a chance, one day inshaAllah I would love to experience those moments again in my beloved hometown, Dunedin.

Bye Bye Expedia! You Will Not Be Missed!

You may hate me but it ain’t no lie,
Baby Bye, bye, bye…

~N’Sync~


It took only one bad service to ruin one reputation. That’s exactly my experience with Expedia. Though it wasn’t recently – talking about 4 months ago -, still, it is worth sharing the unfortunate experience.

I used their service a lot while in New Zealand. Never once I had an issue, though I read lots of comments regarding the agent online.

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Last Christmas, I made a last minute plan with my cousin and her daughter to travel to Krabi, Thailand. As usual, I logged on to Expedia website to look for the best deal. Considering myself lucky, we locked on the deal – travelling to Krabi via Phuket. All was sorted, we got our booking confirmation.

On the travelling day itself, we decided to stay overnight at KLIA since our flight was scheduled at 4.45 am. We departed from home early, around 3pm, went to KL Sentral to take KLIA Express to the airport.

Upon check-in, the lady at the counter told us that there were problems with my cousin’s and her daughter’s names. For some reason, Expedia wrote their name wrongly in the system. We checked out the online confirmation, all names were correctly written. I didn’t know how did Expedia screw up, but they did it big time.

Unlike my cousin, whose name was missing one character, her daughter’s name was completely shortened to 4 characters only (out of 3 word-name). She called Expedia to sort out this problem, the agent said he could not do anything so she demanded to talk to the manager.

After a few moments of debating, — he even blamed us for not telling us earlier. Duh! Are you retarded? The problem occured upon check-in, how could we tell you sooner??? — the manager said he would need two hours to fix the issues (like seriously?). So we headed to KLIA, hoping that the matter would be resolved once we’ve arrived at the airport.

Not even half an hour after we boarded the train, the manager called, saying that he could not do it within 24 hours. There were procedures they have to follow yada yada. Again, seriously? You screwed up and you could not even fix it.

The solution he gave? We had to purchase new tickets and guaranteed for a refund.

As a travel agent, he should know better that that was Christmas time, definitely the plane to Phuket (everybody loves to go to Phuket!) was fully booked. At least, what he could do was to explain the situation to MAS, purchased the tickets on behalf of us and not leave us handling the problem ourselves with 1001 uncertainties.

Fortunately, the MAS agents were really helpful, assisting us to solve this problem. It wasn’t smooth, they had to make a lot of calls in between, but they did their best to help.

Expedia? Didn’t even try to assist.

According to the MAS agent, our case wasn’t the first. There were a lot of other angry customers having issues with Expedia.

After experiencing their bad service first hand, that would be the last time used them as an online agent. Not gonna give them a second chance. Nada. Ziltch.

And I’m not gonna put out a nice word about them either. Full stop.