Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The First SMK English Teachers' Colloquium in Probolinggo

My first local colloquium took place last Saturday, November 15 in the computer laboratory of SMKN 1 Probolinggo. Attended by 12 teachers, apart from me, the meeting, which was actually an MGMP meeting, lasted for about three hours, starting from 09:30 a.m. to 12:30 pm. About 5-10 other teachers who had been invited could not attend the meeting due to several reasons.

During the occasion, I had a chance to pass some of the important information that I had got from the 2nd MET Colloquium in Jakarta last August. Among those was the Internet-Based TOEIC Test on Speaking and Writing about which my colleagues in Probolinggo were completely uninformed. It was quite surprising for me to find that none of them knew or had heard about such test before. Unfortunately, I couldn’t come to them with something to read or see since it was not our main agenda of the meeting. (We hadn’t had the Examinee Handbook and other necessary data copied). However, I promised them that I would provide the forum with more information about the test in our next meeting.

The other thing, which was the main agenda of the meeting, was a brief workshop on Hot Potatoes. Though some of them, especially the ladies, seemed to have a rather hard time with computers, my colleagues were quite enthusiastic about the program. Despite the use of LCD, I had to run and move here and there many times to assist them with their work. But I enjoyed it. Let’s consider it a form of physical exercise for me.

The reason for the agenda was that we felt it was quite necessary to introduce computer-based tests to our students, and to vary the teaching methods that we apply from time to time by making use of any available teaching-learning media including computer. Based on my own experience, if presented correctly, a test or quiz in such a computerized form as Hot Potatotes files can be fun and enjoyable to the students. It can be a new and constructive learning experience which, in turn, will nurture and help maintain their motivation in learning.

I was quite happy to be able to share what I know and to pass necessary information to my colleagues in Probolinggo and I really appreciate their willingness to learn. I feel grateful for SMKN 1 Probolinggo, especially the headmaster (though he seemed to be unsupportive at first) and my colleagues and friends there (for their help from the very beginning), for allowing English MGMP teachers to use the computer lab. I should also thank Mr. Gumawang Jati from Bandung Talent Source for his kindness to share his paid ‘Hot Potatoes’ software with us teachers. Well, it’s clearly not for nothing, sir.

Above all, I should extend my heartfelt gratitude to Ms. Jenny Lee, Mr. Victor Chan and everyone in ITC Jakarta for their effort in upgrading English teachers through Master English Teachers’ Colloquium program. Speaking in a broader context, I believe that all your work and effort will bear its fruit and add a color of value to the English language teaching in Indonesia. God bless you all.

Last but not least, I hope my MET colleagues will share their experience here. We would like to hear from you all because I’m sure there must be something that we can learn from you. You are all such great and wonderful people I can never forget the moments that I shared with you. Keep in touch and keep sharing, Masters.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Story of Tengger (Funny Version)

A long time ago, being invaded by an enemy kingdom, the people of Majapahit had to evacuate their kingdom. After Google-searching, they decided to move eastward, and so did their Gods. With their cars and motorcycles, the Majapahit people fled their homes and arrived on the slope of Mt. Bromo where they decided to settle down. Their gods, however, preferred more privacy and chose to live on the slope of Mt. Pananjakan, which was rather far from Mt. Bromo.

Several years later, a goddess assumed a human baby.

Mother: "She is very beautiful. But, she doesn’t cry like other babies do. I wonder if she can be admitted to a singing class."

Father: "Yes. It’s strange. But forget the singing lesson and think about a name to give her."

Mother: "What about Rara Anteng?"

Father: "What? Ganteng?? You mean, handsome? It's a baby girl."

Mother: "Anteng, you idiot. Rara Anteng. Anteng is Javanese for quiet."

Father: "Oh, I see. Yes, I think it's a beautiful name."

At the same time, at a local hospital, the wife of a vicar gave birth to a baby boy.

Mother: "Our baby is very handsome and his face is shiny. He is also strong. This morning he kicked me off the bed."

Father: "Yes, his hand grasp and kick are powerful. His cry is also louder than any other babies’. That’s why; let’s name him Jaka Seger. Seger is Javanese for physically fit or fresh."

Years passed, both Rara Anteng and Jaka Seger had now grown into a very goodlooking teenagers. Just like other teenagers, they joined a social network like Friendster or MySpace and soon became keypals. Their frequent contacts and chats had now brought their relationship into romance.

Jaka Seger: "Rara Anteng, I’ve never met a girl as lovely as you on any sites on the web. I think I love you. Would you be my wife someday?"

Rara Anteng: "Jaka Seger, I don’t know what to say, hunny. But I feel the same way, too. I would do anything to keep us together. I love you, too."

Meanwhile, the beauty of Rara Anteng attracted many other young men. Most of them would try to approach her either by sending her emails or text messages.

Man 1: "Oh, Rara Anteng. . . I do want you to be my wife. I’ll do anything just to have you beside me. I’ll cross the deepest ocean; I’ll climb the highest mountain just to be near you."

Man 2: "I love you, Rara. Please be my wife. I’ll give you everything you want. I’ll take the stars out of the sky if you want them."

Man 3: "Anteng, please marry me and live with me. You are the air that I breathe; you are my life, my soul. I won’t be able to live without you."

Rara Anteng: "I’m sorry, folks. But, I will never change my mind and I can’t lie to myself. Jaka Seger is my true love. I will love him forever. Please understand and stop wasting your account trying to impress me. You'll get nowhere."

One day, the leader of a group of robbers, who often hacked other people's sites, came to the village to propose marriage to Rara Anteng. He was mean, cruel, and famous for his supernatural power. No one had ever dared to fight the wicked robber. Rara Anteng was afraid to refuse the robber’s proposal directly, as he might be angry and would probably destroy the village. Therefore, after some Google-searching, Rara Anteng prepared a trick, and quickly sent an IM to the robber.

Rara Anteng: "Hey, robber. I'm online now. I've decided to marry you."

Robber: "Hey, are you serious"

Rara Anteng: "Why not? What's wrong with marrying a guy like you? But I have one condition."

Robber: "Just say it. I'm all ears."

Rara Anteng: "I will marry you if you can create a sea in the middle of this mountain."

Robber: "Sea? Why not ocean? That’s as easy as ABC’s, or 1 2 3. With the latest software that I've developed, it’s a piece of cake. I can create with only a few key-strokes; before you even finish typing, my queen."

Rara Anteng: "Don’t think it’s that easy. I just want to make sure that I'm going to marry a tough guy. You’ll have to accomplish the task in one single night. I repeat, one night. You may start only after sunset. When the first cock crows the next morning, you’d better make sure the ocean is completely ready. Otherwise, you should stop dreaming of marrying me. That’s the deal."

Robber: "You’ll get it, my queen. Now, if you’d excuse me, I have to prepare for the night. Tomorrow, you’re mine!"

Rara Anteng: "Wait. One more thing. No spamming, no cheats, and no cracks allowed."

Robber: "No problem at all. Gotta go now. Bye"

As soon as the sun set that evening, the robber leader started what seemed to be an impossible task; creating a sea in the middle of the mountain. With his great supernatural power, he had thousands of jinns help him. The jinns started digging the mountain ground using coconut shells which were as big as a hill due to their supernatural power. They worked hard, so hard that after midnight, the work was almost done.

When more than two third of the ocean had been formed, Rara Anteng panicked. She was not happy at all.

Rara Anteng: "What will I do if the robber can make it? What will I say to Jaka Seger if the robber succeeds? I want to marry Jaka, not the filthy scoundrel. I’m not going to marry him in any way. So, I can’t just sit here and let things happen. I have to do something to stop him, even it means chatting. I mean cheating."

That midnight, Rara Anteng went out of her house and soon woke all her chickens, hens and cocks up. “Cock a doodle..... cock a doodle”. Soon, cockcrows broke the air in that silent midnight, crept into the robber’s ears, and shattered his dreams into pieces.

Robber: "Oh, no. It can’t be true! It’s still early, too early for a cock to crow. It can’t be true. It must be a trick."

The jinns, who had also heard the cockcrows, did not want to continue working anymore.

Jinn 1: "Please, forgive me, my master. It’s time for us to leave now. We, the jinns, are supposed to sign out and go home when we hear a cockcrow."

Robber: "What on earth are you talking about?? No, no, you can’t go. You have to finish the job. Help me."

Jinn 2: "I’m sorry, my master. Remember, the deal is that we should stop when we hear the first cockcrow, right? So, we really have to go now. We wish we could help you."

Jinn 3: "I'm sorry. But we really have to go now. Look. I've just got a message from my wife, asking me to pick my kids up from school."

Robber: "Nooooooooooo! You're all useless!"

In spite of the latest software, the robber realized that it was impossible for him to finish before the sunrise without the help from the Jinns. He got really mad and threw the biggest coconut shell into the air. It flew high in the air before the gravity pulled it back to the ground. Boom! It fell on the ground. Dust and sand scattered in the air, so did the robber’s dream of marrying Rara Anteng.

Since then, the robber had been reported missing. His family had tried people-finder on the web, but ended up with no result. His friends had also searched every social network and other web communities, but the robber was nowhere to download.

Not long after that, Jaka Seger (hey, where has he been all the time??? lol) and Rara Anteng got married, and lived happily ever after.

Today, we can enjoy the breath-taking beauty of Mount Bromo panorama, with the sand sea surrounding it and Mount Batok nearby. The sand sea is believed to be the ocean that was never completed; whereas Mount Batok is said to be the upsidedown coconut shell used by the robber to dig the land.

In the picture below, you can see Mt. Batok surrounded by early morning fog on the Sand Sea, next to the smoldering crater of Mt. Bromo. Further behind is the highest peak in Java, Mt. Semeru (3,676m).

(East Java Folktale – Retold in English by Prast)

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Light

Faintly, the sound of Adzan, Moslem’s pray call, soared and broke the air in that sunny and dry late morning in Leces. The hands of the clock showed 11:30, drawing the morning to an end. In the sky, the sun was shining brightly and was certainly about to be at its peak. Whereas in the blue sky, flocks of small white clouds were creeping slowly in the atmospheric wind, traveling to God knows where. Treetops swayed as the gentle breeze blew, as if they had been quivering at the heart-moving sound of Adzan. Everything in the nature seemed to be listening attentively to the echoing pray call.

The pray call crept into the classrooms of Taruna Dra Zulaeha Senior High school, followed by the school bell marking the start of the second break. Like a programmed routine after replying their teachers’ goodbye, most students would immediately leave for the mosque to perform their Dhuhur (noon) service. Only few students would remain in the class, reading or chatting with their friends, while others who could not bear their stomach’s call for lunch headed straight for the school canteen where they would find something to eat or drink.

As usual, Fatimah, a second-year student of Taruna Senior High school, took her prayer robe out of her bag, got up and walked out of the classroom to the mosque. But, she held her steps at the classroom door when she realized that Khadijah, one of her close friends in the class, still remained sitting at her desk.

Slightly raising her veil to wipe her sweat on her forehead, Fatimah said, “Let’s go, mate. You are supposed to pray Dhuhur now, aren’t you?”

Khadijah answered with a funny grin on her face, “I’m having my period now. Just send my best regards to God, OK?”

“Are you crazy or what?” Fatimah replied, “You can’t delegate anyone to perform your prayer, can you?”

Khadijah smiled, “I know. It was a joke. You had better hurry up now, or you’ll miss your first Takbir. I’m starving and I need something to eat. I’ll be waiting for you around the shop in front of the mosque.”

Smiling back at Khadijah, Fatimah made a gesture of goodbye with her right hand before she left.

Ten minutes later, she got out of the mosque and saw that familiar grin of her desk mate’s in front of the shop. Khadijah waved to her.

“I’ve bought you this”, said Khadijah when Fatimah was in front of her, pointing with her right fore finger at some food on her table.

Fatimah sat down and thanked her friend, “It’s a very kind of you, Khadijah. It’s not you. You hardly ever bought me anything, have you? What’s happening?”

Khadijah laughed naughtily, “Oh, nothing. I just feel happy today. I’m having my period and so, I won’t have to perform any religious obligations, at least for almost a week. I don’t have to get up early in the morning to pray”.

Feeling surprised at her friend’s answer, Fatimah stopped eating. Her beautiful young face frowned as she stared at her friend. But deep in her heart, she admitted that she often felt the same way as her friend did. Not knowing what to say, she smiled and shook her head at her friend’s uninhibited words.

A middle-aged man in his white moslem clothes and a white cap who was sitting next to them looked and smiled warmly at Khadijah. He must have heard what Khadijah had just said. The girls were wondering who he was, and started feeling uneasy at the stranger’s smile when they heard his words, “Please excuse me for interrupting. But do you know why Moslems have to pray?”

The man’s politeness and pious appearance caused an unexplainable feeling of safety creeping into the girls’ mind. Confidently, Khadijah answered, “That’s because we have to. I mean we must. It’s our obligation as moslems.”

Fatimah added, “Allah promises us heaven and protects us from hell if we pray.” The stranger nodded at their answers and smiled wisely. Then he asked another question, “What would we do if Allah never asked us to pray? And what would we do if God had never created heaven or hell? Would we still pray?”

Both girls stopped eating, and stared at the man with a dazzled look. They completely had no idea of how to answer the question they had never heard before. But, defending herself, Khadijah replied, “I’m sorry, Sir. But your questions need no answer. It’s obvious that God has asked us to pray, and created heaven and hell.”

Another wise smile was formed on the man’s face. He said, “You are right about that. But we are actually talking about our motivation in praying.”

“What do you mean?” the girls asked almost at the same time. They started to feel it was interesting.

“If we think that praying is an obligation or a must, we will sometimes find that praying is a burden to us. We will pray reluctantly or lazily, and at times, we’ll even delay or skip it. It will not happen if we believe that praying is one of human’s basic needs, like food or clothes”, replied the man.

“What? How can praying be a necessity?” asked Khadijah impatiently. Fatimah frowned, trying to figure out what the man was talking about.

With another fatherly smile, the man began explaining, “Praying is a necessity because of the weak nature of man. Scientifically, man is a social being who can never live dependently. Like it or not, they directly or indirectly always depend on others, such as their parents, friends, and their neighbors. Let’s take it as an example, when you are in trouble, you need a place to run, and someone to help solving your problem, or at least, to share it with. But, once in your life, you’ll feel no one can help or understand you, nowhere to go, and nowhere to run in this world. This is a very crucial moment in one’s life. Many people can’t get through it, and then trap themselves in frustration, which mostly leads to drugs, crimes, and even suicide. Na’udzubillah. At this point, they are mentally sick. However, for those who really believe in Allah, and always perform their religious obligations, this will not happen. They feel they meet Allah in their prayer, and talk to Allah. Allah is the only place for them to run to. Allah will listen to you, take care of you, and help you with however big your problem is, even when nobody else will. Allah will always forgive you even when this world cannot tolerate your mistakes.”

Fatimah addressed a question, “Can you make it short, sir?”

The man continued, “Prayer or what we call shalat brings an effect of strengthening our personality. Performing the obligatory prayers at 5 appointed times a day, if done with the right intention, will bring you confidence, peace, comfort and satisfaction in life. In this way, the effect of shalat is ensuring and boosting your psychological development, such as mental, moral and character, which, together, will improve your emotional quotient. To be short, Islam has known about how to improve EQ, emotional quotient, far before western people came up with the idea.”

Fatimah nodded, gesturing that she agreed with the man. Suddenly, Khadijah replied, still defending herself, “But, isn’t it the same as long as we believe in Allah? I mean, shalat is prayer. And prayer can be done anytime and anywhere, right? Not only by shalat. Besides, Allah is The Most Forgiving. Allah will forgive us however sinful we are, unless we are infidels or unbelievers.”

Still understandingly, the stranger replied, “You have to be careful. Even Satan, the cursed one, and his followers believe that God exists. They also believe in heaven and hell. But they are cursed because of their haughtiness and pride, refusing to obey God’s order. So, believing only is not enough. You have to proof your loyalty and devoutness to Allah by willingly performing all that Allah has ordered us to do, and at the same time, avoiding all that Allah has asked us not to do. Only in this way, a man can assume the highest position of all creatures, even higher than that of angels. That was why Allah ordered angels and Satan to bow before Adam, right after Adam’s creation in the heaven. In short, performing all of your religious obligations, including shalat, is a way to reach your true quality as human, the earth caliphs. The right understanding of all this will lead us to the level where the obligation is not only an obligation but also a necessity.”

This time, Khadijah said nothing. Fatimah, who had been listening attentively to the man, addressed a question, “Are you saying that if we don’t pray or perform our religious obligations, then we won’t have the real quality of human’?”

“That’s what I’m talking about,” the man replied. “In order to make it clearer to you, I’ll ask you several questions. Is it Allah who needs to be worshipped? Does Allah order us to pray and worship Him because He needs it? Does He need our shalat or prayer in order for Him to live? Would it lessen His Glory if the whole universe did not praise Him or worship Him? And, would our worship add anything to His Glory?”

Those questions, although they were unemotionally asked, stabbed deeply into the girls’ heart, like a sharp knife, cracking the walls of arrogance inside their heart. The questions obviously demanded no answers. Yet, in fact, they would scatter to pieces the arrogance of man who had often claimed to be superior in this universe.

Both of the girls felt their eyes warm and wet. In a shaking voice, Fatimah answered, “Subhanallah. The answer to all those questions is NO.”

Khadijah sighed, and wiped her wet beautiful eyes, realizing how arrogant she had been so far in front of Allah, The Creator who never depends on His creatures and His universe.

“Allah has ordered us to perform 5 obligatory prayers a day and other religious obligations merely for our own good, because He knows we have the ability of doing so. The whole universe up to all particles and cells all worship Allah. But they can’t perform shalat like us. Shalat, as well as other obligations in general, differs mankind from animals. Have you ever seen a monkey performing shalat? Animals may have brains like human and silently chant their praise or dzikir to Allah, yet still they can’t perform shalat 5 times a day like us. The true essence of shalat will bring man to the quality of honor, as the noble caliphs of the earth. Therefore, if a man doesn’t perform the obligatory religious service or not even remember Allah, he may be in a lower quality than a monkey.”

Khadijah’s face went red. However, deep inside she agreed with the man. She looked at Fatimah, and both of them suddenly burst out laughing, imagining they were worse than a monkey. But, at last, Khadijah, who liked arguing, said, “Isn’t it because monkeys and all other creatures can’t think just like human?”

The man smiled wisely, and continued, “Allah has created man in a more perfect condition than any other creatures, like animals, genies, and even angels. That’s why we have to perform all religious obligations sincerely to worship Him, as an expression of gratitude to Allah for being trusted to bear the responsibility as the caliphs of the earth.”

The man added, “You should always remember that the main purpose of shalat must be purely to express our gratitude and to achieve Allah’s blessing. Your shalat should be free of all forms of worldly intentions and motives, such as to gain fame, position or wealth, otherwise it will be impure in front of Allah.”

Wanting to know more, Fatimah asked, “You said that the impact of shalat is strengthening our personality. Is it also the purpose of our shalat? And is it wrong if we perform our service to God in order to seek for heaven in the after life?”

“No, not at all,” the man quickly replied, “A purpose is different from an impact. A purpose is the reason and motive why we do something, whereas an impact is what will happen if you do something. ”

The man added, “It is not wrong if we pray in order to be safe in the afterlife, or in order to avoid hell and seek for heaven. In fact, it is much better than expecting fame, or worldly position and wealth. The best of all is to humble before Allah, and to be sincere and wholehearted, not to expect anything, except being able to meet and see the light of Allah. But, never be proud of yourself that you can perform a religious service. If you think you are able to perform it because of your own strength and initiative, you’re making a very big mistake.”

Fatimah was sure that those seemingly underestimating words would be too much for her best friend to accept, and she smiled when Khadijah asked, “I’m sorry, sir. But I don’t really understand what you mean with mistake? Could you explain it?” This time, Fatimah was rather surprised to see her partner trying to be polite in defending herself. There was no more tone of arrogance in her voice.

The man wiped his sweat on his forehead with the back of his hand, and explained, “Being proud of yourself will lead you to haughtiness, and that will make your devoutness meaningless in front of Allah. Instead, you should be grateful to Allah for showering you with His blessings, divine direction and guidance from which your devoutness arise. He decides whomever He will guide with the light of faith and whomever He leaves astray in the darkness.”

The man continued, “I’d like to tell you something you ought to know about shalat. Shalat is the way of conveying your wishes and expressing your gratitude to Allah, as well as freeing your spirit from sins and impurity. Shalat is the place where the secrets of Allah are unimpeded, and where the bright lights of the highest knowledge of connaisance or ma’rifat rise. It is true when a servant of Allah stands up to pray, Allah will remove his blind for him, and directly meet him. Angels will stand upright from his shoulder up to heaven, follow his shalat and answer his every prayer with ‘Amen’. He will be bathed and sowed with God’s mercy and blessing from heaven down to the crown of his head. He will then be greeted with a voice; “If only this man knew to whom he is talking, he would never ever stop praying”. It is true that the doors of heaven will open for the praying ones, as long as they are praying. And it is also true that Allah is proud of them in front of His angel.”

Both of the girls, who had finished their food, now were in complete silence. All of the stranger’s explanation had raised their deepest consciousness as servants of God, and brought a new understanding about their religious service. It had ruined the walls of darkness, and brought a light into their heart, their mind and their spirit, and in turn, melted the rocks of arrogance, impurities and insincerity in being faithful servants of Allah. The light, which at first was only a dim ray, now had grown brighter and brighter. It shone on their spirit even more brightly than the sun that day, and revealed much of what had been hidden beyond the walls of man’s stupidity and ignorance. They now realized how impure their religious service had been so far.

Suddenly, Khadijah jumped, “My God, we’ll be late for class.” She pointed with her right thumb to the clock on the shop wall, which now showed 12 sharp. “I’m sorry, Sir. But we must go now. We have a class.”

While Khadijah was paying for their food at the cashier, Fatimah added politely, “We’re really thank you for what you’ve explained to us. It has added much to our knowledge and, Insya Allah, will be useful to us.”

“Alhamdulillah. Thank Allah for guiding you into His light,” replied the man humbly.

“Assalamu’alaikum”, said both of the girls almost simultaneously.

“Wa’alaikumussalam warrahmatullahi wabarakaatuh,“ the man replied warmly.

As they were leaving for their classroom, both of the girls looked back upon their shoulder at the shop where they had met the man, wondering who he was and where he came from. But he was no longer there. They stopped walking and looked round but he was nowhere to be seen. With a dazzled look, they stared at each other with their open mouth. Khadijah who suddenly realized they were late, dragged Fatimah’s hand, urging her to hurried for their class, where Mr. Agus Supriyono, their English teacher, must have started teaching by now. They were wondering what could be the perfect excuse to tell Mr. Agus for their coming late, but for certain they wouldn’t tell him how they had met a man, or whoever it might have been, who had led them to the beginning of a never-ending spiritual journey, the journey towards the light of God.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

A boy and An Apple Tree

Once upon a time, there grew a big apple tree. A boy was really fond of playing around the apple tree everyday. He would climb the tree, pick its fruits and eat them as many as he wanted. At other times, he would take some rest and sleep under the tree. The boy loved the tree so much, and it seemed that the apple tree liked the boy too.

Time passed. The little boy was now a teenager. He didn’t spend his days playing near the apple tree anymore. One day, however, he came near the tree with a sad look on his face.

“Come and play around me,” the tree said to him.

“I’m not a kid anymore. I don’t like playing with you anymore,” answered the teenage boy. “I want a toy. I need some money to buy a toy.” The boy added sadly.

The apple tree said, “In that case, come and pick my fruits. Sell them to get some money. In this way, you will be able to buy the toy you dream of.”

The teenage boy happily picked all the fruits on the tree and then left. He never returned. The apple tree felt very sad.

Time went by. One day, the teenager came back. He had grown up into a young man. The apple tree was very happy to see him again. “Come on, young man. Play around me like you used to do,” said the apple tree.

“I don’t have time to play now. I have to work and earn money. I want to build a house as a shelter for my family. Would you help me, Apple Tree?” asked the young man.

The tree replied, “I’m sorry. I don’t have a house. But, you may cut my big branches and use the wood to build a house.”

That was what the young man did. He cut all the branches of the apple tree, and when he had enough, he left happily. The apple tree was more than happy to be able to help him. But the young man never returned, and it made the apple tree very sad again.

Years passed. It was a hot day when a man came near the leafless and branchless apple tree. The man was actually the boy who used to play near the apple tree. He had now grown up into a matured man.

“Come and play around me,” said the apple tree.

“I’m sorry, but I’m not a kid who likes to play around you anymore. I’ve grown up into an adult and I want to sail across the ocean. Unfortunately, I have no boat to sail. Could you help me again and solve my problem?” answered the man.

The apple tree replied, “I don’t have a boat to give you. But, you may cut down my main trunk and make a boat from it. You then can sail happily.”

The man was very happy to hear it. Then, cut the tree down. He left afterward and never returned.

A long time had passed. One day, an old man came near the apple tree. The tree recognized him. He was the boy who used to play happily around the tree.

“Forgive me this time. I don’t have anything to give you anymore. I have given you my fruits to sell, my branches and twigs to build a house, and my main trunk to make a boat. I don’t have anything anymore. Now, I’m just an old and useless root.” The tree said to him sadly.

The old man replied,” I don’t want your fruits because I have no teeth anymore. I don’t want to cut your branches because I’m just too old and weak to do it.

I don’t need your trunk because I don’t sail anymore. I feel tired and I want to rest.”

“Then, come here and rest on me although I have nothing more to offer except the lowest part of my trunk,” said the apple tree. The old man then sat down to rest on the remaining trunk of the tree. Then, they both cried….

In fact, the apple tree in this story is OUR PARENTS, our beloved father and mother. When we were young kids, we liked to play around them and cuddle up to them. When we grew up, we need their help to live our life. Then, we left them and returned to them when we had problems and needed their help. However, in spite of all that we have done to them, they never give up on us. They never fail to help us and do anything to make sure that we lead a happy life.

You probably think that the boy had treated the apple tree cruelly. But, think about it and take a better look. That’s exactly how most teenagers who live today treat their parents. Why can’t we seem to love them and treat them better? Why can’t we seem to respect them and thank them for all they have done to us? Let’s all think about it. So, when you arrive home, hug your parents and kiss them, before it’s too late ….

- To my Mom (who never fails to love me): “You are THE BEST MOM”

- To the memory of my Dad: “I never forget the moments I spent with you, Dad. I pray to God for you. May you rest in peace. I MISS YOU, Dad.”

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Why Do I Love My Wife?

Why do I love my wife? To be honest, this question has never crossed my mind, let alone the answer. Very often, we like or love someone without knowing why we do so. I have often asked people why they love someone, and their answer would be ‘because I love him or her’. The answer is really unsatisfactory, indeed.

The same also happens to me. Being simple, the reason why I love my wife, I think, is because I love her. I believe love is illogical and unexplainable. It is very difficult to elaborate why we love someone. I first met my wife more than 12 years ago, and ever since, I have always found something special in her that I could never find in any other girl, and I have always felt very secure and lively to be near her. Strangely enough, those kinds of feeling are indescribable and really beyond words.

However, if the question means ‘What do I like from my wife?’, I will be able to tell most, if not all, of the kinds of “magic” that my wife has. I would begin with our first meeting, which I still often recall with a smile. It was the first time I knew that she was a shy and lovely girl.

As our relationship developed, I realized that she also had a sweet and adorable personality, engulfed in a natural beauty of a small-town girl. Nevertheless, it was her natural physical beauty that first attracted me. Her face has hardly ever been touched by layers of cosmetics or make-ups, except on very, very special occasions. Everyday, she goes to work only with a thin layer of facial make-ups. She has never had her hair done just in order to keep up with the latest trend. She never cares about the latest fashion. She’s not the kind of woman who likes to spend a lot of money on clothes or cosmetics. On our dressing table, you can still find several sets of cosmetics aged more than a year. She rarely uses it! She also never worries about adding her collection in her wardrobe. Several weeks ago, she had 2 pairs of shoes repaired on a street shoe-repairman. To be short, among the glittering world of late fashion and sophisticated technology, she shines like a true diamond, - modest, natural, untouched and pure, yet charming, and hypnotizing.

When I spend some time alone to think, I often wonder how she has always been able to keep my feelings going strong and unchanged through years. I think it is simply because she loves me as I am. She has always believed in me and let this love grow naturally, without restrain or conditions. She has never failed to love me and treat me as a man, and that really makes my life worthwhile and meaningful. Although we have two children now, those magical feelings have never once changed a bit. The way she takes care of our children is one a man can dream of from a woman. She has always been willing to give without asking back, like the sun of my world. She provides a direction to my every step, like a guiding star in the night when everything else is dark. I think those are why I love my wife. With all my feelings that I feel inside, I have no doubt in loving her forever!

Where do I begin to tell a story of how great a love can be?
A sweet love story that is older than the sea,
The simple truth about the love she gives to me
Where do I start?
With her first hello, she gave a meaning to this empty world of mine
There'll never be another love another time
She came into my life and made this living fine
She fills my heart.....
She fills my heart with very special things
with angel songs, and wild imagining
She fills my soul with so much love that anywhere I go,
I'm never lonely
With her along, who could be lonely?
I reach for her hands, ... and she'll be there
How long does it last?
Can love be measured by the hours in the day?
I know I need her till the stars all burn away
and she'll be there ....