Over the long weekend, I finished Tony Parson‘s One for My Baby, which was part of our loot from the MPH Warehouse Sale in Petaling Jaya. Got it at a good bargain of RM 20. I have not been indulging in a fiction for quite some time due to the recent events that kept me busy. And also since of late, I have limited time for leisure, the only reading materials I could afford were the news (online or otherwise) and things pertaining to work/studies. However, the last Diwali weekend was a good opportunity for me to rest. And so I binged on books and chocolates.
I am not very good in remembering events and characters in the fictions I read unless those were for literature exams. But in this book, one thing I remember in the beginning of the book when the character Alfie was told by a Tai Chi sensei that one ‘ Must learn to eat cold porridge’
Apparently it is an old Chinese saying that shaped their mindset and worldview. That in order to achieve something you want badly, or to be really good at something, one must be able to eat cold porridge. It means, according to the sensei in the book that ‘ …you work on it while others are playing. You work on it while others are watching television and you work on it while others are sleeping..’ The idea is to work on something so hard in order to be really good at it, that when one reaches home after a long hard day of slogging, there is nothing else to eat but cold porridge. ( this saying came about in ancient China pre-microwave oven era hokay.. )
Anyway that chapter reminded me of my 5++ years of teaching in a Chinese school back in my hometown. The school was set up more than 80 years ago by a migrant clan from China. Later on it was absorbed by the government and now it is a full government school but still retaining its identity as a clan based school.
In every case there is, there are always two sides to the coins. And so are the issues of race and culture. It was during my years as a non Chinese teacher in a Chinese school that I learnt about both their strength and weaknesses, their whims and fancies and their idiosyncrasies. Some I really admire, some I really resent and been made a victim of… and others made me wonder why can’t I be like that. Like them. Like the good side of them.
My colleagues then manifested the ‘eating the cold porridge’ wisdom. They really worked hard at what they were doing, although as we all know, teaching standards and attaining it back in my hometown is not a cup of teh tarik. And in order to keep up with them because of course, since teachers are graded, I wouldn’t want to risk my reporting officer thinking that I was doing the bare minimal. Many times, as late as 10 pm at night we were still in school marking, planning lessons, planning syllabus, doing the admin stuffs, planning programs for the academic calendars. And we all had to ‘ eat the cold porridge’. I remembered back then I was thinking out loud saying ‘ Have I landed in a workaholic planet or what ?! ‘ From the cubicle across, my Indian colleague yelled out in jest, ‘ No dear.. you landed yourself in a Chinese school !’
Once, the school’s management had a lofty idea of being the first primary school in Asia to get the ISO 9002 certification. Ohhhh how we slogged for it !!! For about a year, we teachers were coming home sometimes as late at 10 pm or beyond ( starting at 7 am in the morning ), standardizing every single document, syllabus, worksheets, books.. everything! It was both a nightmare and a training ground to produce super anal teachers/govt officers. But yes, for that year, we all ate the cold porridge, to the extend that my mum made many, many comments like ‘ Kata cikgu… waktu kerja kalaaahh executive bank maner ntahhh !’ I guess she was sick of keeping dinner for me and I was too tired to eat them up.
My then ‘not-husband yet‘ was working on an oil rig in Mexico back then. Our only form of communication was MSN. Being 12-14 hours behind our time, it sometimes amazed him that when he woke up on the rig, I was already in school and when it was time for him to sleep the next day, I was STILL in school!! And whenever he came down to the island off rig times to visit me like twice or thrice a year, he would still see me slogging away in school ! And he commented that even oil rig engineers like him have time off and teachers in this country don’t? My meek reply was simply ‘ I am in a Chinese school’.
Oh it was all worth it and when we did get the ISO9002 award through the blood, sweat and tears literally.
Hence, melamine/briberies/concubine issues aside, there are many things that we can learn from the Chinese and apply it. The hadith reported, ( although a weak narration ) that the Prophet said ‘ Seek knowledge even it it is to China’ when he himself had never been there. I guess the Chinese whom he traded with during his times as the trading personnel of the rich merchant Khadijah, did create an impact upon him, like it did upon me those five++ years which were the longest and most trying period in my career.
On another note altogether, I am desperately trying to lose weigh for health reasons. I have aikido trainings twice a week and for a month since, have been going for yoga classes near our place. But my weight problem is still there. The problem is that I love food far too much. In January 2007 when Malaysia became my home, I was a slim and slender 50kg on a 1.62 cm frame. Now in October 2008, I am a hefty 70kg on a 1.62 frame!
Maybe I should just eat cold porridge. As in really the cold porridge daily and not in the metaphoric sense of it. Mungkin boleh kurus, kot???