Monday 30 September 2013

by Akhilan Manivannan, Sophomore 2 Cempaka, Class of 2015

Photo credit: Shariz B. Amir Sharji
Every year, Cempaka continues to amaze viewers with its box office production and this year was no different, as Cempakans from all campuses stepped up to the plate in a monumental effort to bring the spectacle that is Tarzan to the theatrical stage. Sure enough, it wasn’t easy, with the cast and crew having merely two months to craft, perfect and finalize the entire production. Despite the incredibly short amount of time, Tarzan was a huge success, exceeding expectations with every show. Showcasing crisp acting, a breathtaking set and pinpoint technical accuracy, Tarzan was testimony to the hard work and dedication of Cempakans.

One performer was given the opportunity to take on the deceivingly intricate and headstrong character of Tarzan. That was none other than Jes Ismael, who as the main man, excelled in all criteria and brought Tarzan to the next level. This was relatively unexpected, as it was Jes’s first time participating in a Cempaka box office production yet I am pleased to say that he has definitely done us proud. Here is a short interview with the man (and king of the jungle) himself, Jes Ismael.

Akhilan: Were you handpicked for the role of Tarzan or did you have to audition for it?

Jes: When the teachers started to talk about it around school, they considered asking me if I was interested but I had to audition anyway.

Akhilan: How did you feel when you got the role?

Jes: I was actually really surprised, in a good way though. I mean, I have always loved trying new things and I guess this was a way to get into something new.

Akhilan: What was the training like and how hard did you have to work to master the role of Tarzan?

Jes: It was a lot of fun. I was tired most of the time, but it just kept me going. I was actually so into it that I got onto a super caveman diet: eating berries, raisins, banana smoothies. It was pretty rad. I would definitely do it again.

Akhilan: Who was the most help to you in perfecting your role?

Jes: There was no one specific, really. Everyone was just very super motivated and friendly, that in turn kept me motivated. Everyone played their part.

Akhilan: What was the atmosphere like during the whole process?

Jes: The vibes were really good. Everyone was filled with energy and just enthusiastic about learning something new. It felt like being in a circus, a constant flow of energy just hitting you back and forth.

Akhilan: Which fellow performer did you enjoy working with the most?

Jes: Hmm, definitely Aiman. She has a lot of experience in performing arts and she helped me a lot. She was the only one who wanted to run scenes when we had nothing on our schedule so we wouldn't mess things up when we rehearse on stage.

Akhilan : How did it feel doing your first show? Were you nervous?

Jes: I'm in a band and I've had gigs with more people so it wasn't as bad as it should have been. Performing to large crowds is pretty alright to me, I'm not too afraid of that.

Akhilan : At the end of the day, are you satisfied with your performance?

Jes: Well, I did mess up here and there, but I’m definitely stoked on how everything went. All in all, things were somewhat smooth and I'm pretty happy about it!

Akhilan : Looking back, do you have any particular memories you would like to share?

Jes: Not in particular, but if I were to go back to memory lane I would have to say the whole experience altogether. It was just so memorable - doing things I've never done before - and I'm not sure how many times I've said this but, it was really fun.

Akhilan : Will we be seeing more of you in next year's Cempaka Box Office production?

Jes: Unfortunately, no. I'll be doing the whole SPM thing. Trying to get that right - I'm definitely not working at a Burger King!
by Anonymous 17:33 24 comments | in , , , ,
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Sunday 29 September 2013

by Chua Zi, Form 4 Science 1, Class of 2014

“I’m really mature, or so I have been told. Inside, I’m just a kid and I just want to dance all day and not care about anything else.”

It was past midnight when I sat down with Auriel Yeap—this girl with a reputation in Cempaka as a terrific dancer—to interview her for a yearbook article that had been assigned to me through a Skype chat just minutes before. I was staying overnight at her place so we were sitting on top of a mattress on the floor mindlessly surfing the Internet, surrounded by cables and pillows. The rest of the house was sleeping.

It was really a treasure to hear her speak so passionately about dance, even though at that hour she was quite hyped up, enthusiastically repeating her sentences at times. We spent some time in the interview joking around as we always do but there in her ramblings were her true opinions. I hardly ever hear her talk about dance so seriously.

I started off the interview typing furiously at the keyboard even though our voices were being recorded. Soon after I stopped and just listened to her objective opinion because there’s something about hearing a person talk, listening to the product of her mind working in real time that gives you a sense of who a person really is. We see her not just as a young performer and student with a reputation but as a dancer who exercises a wider outlook on her expectations and who is trying to deal with her doubts related to dance with self-confidence and measured modesty. Here’s what she had to say:

On her background in dance and what motivates her:

AY: I started gymnastics with Zi, with you, when I was 6. We had a really good gymnastics teacher, Ms. Wong who really pushed us. Without her I wouldn’t have been interested in dancing. My first ballet class, I cried. I just sat there and stared at them then walked out of class. I returned the next year. *laughs* I didn’t enjoy dancing in the beginning. I just enjoyed doing splits and jumping because I was flexible. Then I started dancing more, performing in school, getting really active and getting involved in productions. 

As a kid, I just felt better on stage dancing with a smile on my face and not having to worry about anything. Those three minutes on stage, no, just those moments backstage when you’re all pumped up and your teacher says,“It doesn’t matter how many mistakes you make, just keep smiling and go on.” You can’t think when you’re dancing, it’s only what you feel. The first mistake a dancer can make is to think. Then I took up some hip hop, contemporary and ballroom classes. I wanted to apply to a dance school in Singapore but the math level was really difficult... Let’s not talk about math.

CZ: Okay then. Tell me about your dance experience in Cempaka.
AY: We represented the school in gymnastics competitions. We performed in Sports Day every year, in year-end concert, and there was that printer ad where we went on TV. We joined Witches of Oz. In secondary, I did Beauty & The Beast, Seussical, Cempaka Voices In Concert, Hairspray, Tarzan. We still participate in Commencements and Inter-house Dance every year.

CZ: You’ve been dancing since you stepped into this place. Is there a person in your life that motivates you to dance?
AY: [pause] My sister was the first person. She started ballet before me. I watched her dancing and I just needed to go. I also look up to the Cempakans, all the performers. They’re like me, they came from this school. They became this great so I will become this great as well. Man, in the early 2000s everyone was bursting with talent. By 2009 most of them had graduated. I still remember them: Ellya Sam, Muhaimin, Isabelle Ng, David Kam, Julie Chan, Claudilia. Look at Muhaimin, he’s been in 7 out of 10 productions.

CZ: After all that, do you regard yourself as a dancer?
AY: Yes. Of course.

CZ: What do you define as a dancer?
AY: This is a difficult question. I know people who write on their social media descriptions: I’m a dancer. Are you really a dancer? I believe everyone can dance, but being a dancer is different. It’s a profession. You can’t just say I like to dance, I do ballet, I’m a dancer. Are you a professional dancer, a ballroom dancer, a ballet dancer, do you dance for fun? There isn’t a fixed definition. It’s your own. Mine is: you’re a dancer if you feel you’re a dancer at heart. I call myself a dancer because I love to dance and I don’t want to do anything else in the world.

On what she has performed in recently and handling school life:

AY: Since I have transferred to Cheras I’ve performed with some of the junior dancers. Before that was Tarzan. I didn’t really perform much this year because I’ve been trying to focus on studying. Trying.

CZ: How do you manage your time with all these events going on?
AY: Well, I don’t. I try, I really do. I think it’s mostly a dance-all-I-want and fit in studying here and there mantra. Obviously academics are important and even in all these dance universities and programs you need a good GPA to get in. So I try my best and do last minute studying and somehow that miraculously works, though it sounds really bad. I’m not a good influence. I make sure that I always have friends that join me in the performances so that I don’t have to deal with it alone. That’s how I cope—good friends who help me to pass up homework and responsible teachers who understand that this is what I want to do. 

CZ: Your teachers are surprisingly understanding.
AY: Not all the teachers are pleased. They say, “You’re missing my class. Why are you always out of class?” They get especially annoyed when you pop in and out in between classes. Every teacher has their own opinion. Performing has all these ups and downs but I do enjoy it. It’s something I’ve been doing my whole life and I don’t see myself living without it.

On her plans for the future:

CZ: Do you intend to pursue a career in dance?
AY: I do. I considered doing environmental science at one point in time: geography, culture, development, design. This year, I’d stopped all external dance activities because I needed to focus on my studies. Then I joined Tarzan and realized how empty I felt without it. I wake up at 1am and take out my pointe shoes and dance around my room until I fall down because I’m rusty and my toes really hurt. All the CPAC teachers were really shocked to know that I had stopped dance. I thought,“All these people are believing in me. Why am I not believing in myself?” 

So I’ve officially decided to become a professional dancer. I want to go out there, get the experience and credentials, then come back home, wherever that is and open a school. I love kids. Even though I probably scare them.

CZ: How do you plan to get there?
AY: By working really, really hard. Being a dancer is definitely not easy. You need passion, just as you do with everything else in life. It’s not something that you can just apply for, get a job and resign for. You have to continuously push yourself for it. But that’s the best part. I plan to get into college first and doing unrelated academic things like getting a good GPA. I don’t need to go to a famous dance school which produces stars, just one that fits me, fits what I want.

On the Malaysian performing arts scene and where it’s going:

AY: I tried checking it out. There are places like KLPAC, Istana Budaya and they offer many auditions. It’s quite funny. I was talking to Mr Scott and I said that I was worried about being a dancer because when I come back to Malaysia, how are you gonna get auditions? The industry here is so small. Who’s going to recognize you? Then he said, “That’s exactly it. Your industry is so small. In Broadway, you have a thousand people auditioning a day. In Malaysia, you’ll get a thousand in a week if you’re lucky.” So how are you not going to get a part if you’re good? Here you have time to build it up. If you succeed, you’re known.

CZ: Like Ms. Suhaili. [Choreographer for Hairspray and Tarzan]
AY: Yes, like Ms. Su. She’s a runner-up of 8TV's So You Think You Can Dance but if I wasn’t in Cempaka, I may not have known her. But other people know her. In America, you see all these amazing dancers on Youtube and you’re like, “Oh my God. How are you not famous?” Because there are so many amazing dancers there. In Malaysia you have one amazing dancer and you can’t think of anyone else. It’s like a small village, everyone knows each other. So come back to Malaysia and build it up. Malaysia needs to be stronger in the arts. I’d love to be part of it. 

CZ: What do you think is stopping them from expanding?
AY: That’s a difficult question. They’re trying to expand, they really are. It just that, to do that, you need people who want to do it as a career. People go to the UK to pursue performing arts, that’s why it’s so big. In Malaysia, we simply don’t have that many facilities. There isn’t a full-blown performing arts university in Malaysia that’s fully dedicated to the arts with people whose names you know of. In Singapore they have SOTA, which is one of the top schools, and so many people know about it. In Malaysia we have many dance academies but we don’t have a school that builds your performance up. You have to build your own performance up. And all these Malaysians, they don’t study in Malaysia and become great dancers, they study overseas and we’re lucky enough that they come back. So maybe in Malaysia it isn’t expanding because there just aren’t the people to expand it with. Not to mention we’re all Asian and more than half of us want to be accountants and businessmen and doctors.

CZ: What do you suggest we could do to expand it?
AY: Who do you think I am, the prime minister? *laughs* What do I think we can do? Ms. Su’s one of the people who’s trying to promote it, to set up stuff that’s more open so that more people know about it. It’s about advertising and marketing, it’s just like any other product except it’s dance. I don’t know why, but Malaysians have this thing where if it’s from Malaysia it’s bad but if it’s from overseas it’s good.

[pause] I think it’s all about education. Cempaka is one of the schools that really focuses on all aspects: performing arts, academics, extra-curriculum. Without Cempaka, I really wouldn’t be involved in performing arts to the extent that I am today. Cempaka’s one of the schools that really nurtures performing arts—look at Caleb Choo, Savira, myself, Muhaimin, Natasha Lama.

On how Cempaka has shaped her life and inspired her:

AY: I’ve been in Cempaka for 11 years. From the moment I stepped in to the moment I step out of here, I will be dancing. No other school gives you that much exposure to the arts. The CPAC teachers really helped me. I never regretted it even when they pushed me too far. My parents ask 'why are you doing so much'? I just love doing it. Cempaka is an insanely huge part of my life, it’s practically all I remember. Probably more than I want it to be. It is where I learnt how to dance... in that dear dance studio that got burnt down.

Apparently I have a reputation in Cempaka. I have a reputation of being involved in dance and always being out of class. People are like, “What were you doing? Why are you wearing ankle guards?” I was dancing; I got injured. I do have a reputation but I’m just waiting for my testimonial to get some proper recognition that I can actually apply to universities with. *laughs*

On her advice to aspiring dancers:

CZ: It sounds like a very harsh reality to pursue the arts. Do you have any advice for those who want to pursue dance as a career?
AY: My advice is to go for it. If you do dance and you love it, you’ll want to do it forever. You should never stop pursuing something you want to do just because your parents, society or your friends say so. It’s not about the income or how you’re gonna put food on the table. It’s about you being happy because whenever you’re happy you will do anything to achieve your goals. Then you can start thinking about bigger things. Like I said, a dancer’s first mistake is to think. 

Everyone’s going to worry about their future no matter that you pursue, it’s not just dancers. Being a dancer is difficult. Being a freelancer is difficult. When you’re still studying it’s much easier because you’re still going through that experience to become who or what you want to be. Then after you graduate, you have to audition for companies; with endless rejections. But you can’t just stop because you get rejected. It’s tough, everyone gets rejected. I’m not going to say that you’re going to earn lots of money because honestly you’re not, not in the beginning at least. It always gets better. Anything can happen.

CZ: Is there anything else you would like to add before we end?
AY: I would just like to say that every dancer has this thing in their head that says they're not good enough. I’m sure everyone has that, but dancers especially. We dance in front of mirrors everyday. You’re staring at yourself everyday; you see your flaws: what you’re doing wrong, technicality issues, skill issues. 

It’s all about talent. Dance is something that if you don’t have it, you don’t have it. It’s not a language that you can learn up. And no matter how good you are, no matter how many parts you get, whenever you attend an audition you will always be nervous, because there are so many talented people competing to get the role. Then, the relief you feel when you land the part—it’s amazing. Of course there’s rejection which sucks and happens more often than not. It’s not even rejection from the audition, it’s rejection from yourself. You can’t even get it right and you just keep trying and trying. 

Even so, dancing is my forte. And I think without dancing, I’d just be this empty, sad soul.

"All I ever needed was the music, and the mirror, and the chance to dance
- The Music and A Mirror, A Chorus Line
by Anonymous 22:57 9 comments | in , , , ,
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by Nicole Lee Poh Sim, Sophomore 2 Cempaka, Class of 2015

When you look down from the foyer, or anywhere in school where you can get a good view of the pool, you’ll usually see children splashing around in the water and probably the first thought which comes to your mind is: “That looks fun, I wish I could be in the pool right now.” Well, that's what I used to think too, many, many years ago, before I took up swimming. You know when you’re good in a certain sport, people usually assume you love or enjoy doing it? Well, normally that's true, but not for me. Swimming just wasn’t my cup of tea back then. 

I started swimming at a very young age. Being a very stubborn child, I would usually refused to swim laps. It was just too much hard work. I would stop halfway and go to the shallow side to sit down. I preferred playing and splashing around in the water. My parents used to give me a long lecture each time after my swimming class. But I hated swimming. I literally had to be dragged to the pool every week, throwing fits and screaming along the way. Surprisingly, my parents didn’t give up on me. In fact, they pushed me to work even harder. After some time, I realized all I had to do was train and swim my laps if I didn’t want to get scolded. Sounds easy, but it wasn’t (and still isn’t)!

After a few years of swimming, my coach suggested signing me up for the swimming club in school. He said he saw the ‘potential’ in me and thought I could go far. "What a liar", I thought to myself. I was quite reluctant to go at first, but I gave it a try in the end. 

I joined the school swimming team at the ripe age of eleven. I was one of the slowest swimmers at that time and I felt pretty embarrassed about it. Everyone else would be miles ahead of me and I would be all the way at the back, gasping for air like a fish out of water (pun not intended). I wanted to give up. I told my parents I didn’t see the point of continuing as I was a long way behind the rest of the group. My parents didn’t say much. My dad asked me, “If you decide to give up swimming, what sports will you be willing to join? Do you think it’s worth quitting swimming at this age now to start a new sport? You’ll be too far behind.” My immediate response was, “What’s wrong with me trying out a new sport? It’s not that hard.” However I think some part of me knew whatever my dad had just said was all true. All I wanted was to get my own way.

After giving it some thought, I finally agreed to continue with swimming. I knew after making this decision there was no turning back. So continue on I did. One of the toughest things to do at that time was waking up at six in the morning to go for swimming in school. What made it even worse was that it was always freezing cold and I hate cold water. 

I'll admit it took me quite some time to get used to training with the school team, but after a while I managed to adapt. In truth, my training now has cut down a lot compared to when I was in primary. From going for swimming training twice a day almost every day of the week, it has become three to four lessons at the most, per week. However, this does not mean it has gotten any easier.

If you think the only thing we do during training is swim, you’re wrong! This may be surprising but we actually have to do land training before we swim and it does play an important role. Sometimes we also have to go to the gym, either to stretch or lift weights. On certain days, we run at least 10 laps around the pool or at the field. We even have to jump hurdles at times at the field under the hot scorching sun. On rainy days, we usually go to the South Hall to play basketball. After land training, I’m always sweating like a horse, no doubt about that. And the best part (well actually worse) is , we’re not even halfway through training yet. There’s still a long way to go, but this time in the pool.

If we’re lucky enough, we do eight laps for warm up (this happens very rarely). We actually have to do at least forty, sometimes even eighty laps, and this is only warm up. The program after warm up determines whether we’re dead meat for the day or whether we’re spared. Reason being, sometimes we have to train for long distance - one of the most dreaded programs. I don’t enjoy doing long distance, mainly because I don’t think I really have the stamina, and believe it or not, I can even lose count of the number of laps. I prefer sprinting programs because I like moving fast and pushing myself in the distance we swim. Normally, we swim at least four kilometers a day. If there’s a competition around the corner, we have to do at least six kilometers. I sometimes reflect back, and ask myself, “How is it that I now am able to swim this amount of laps without stopping when just a few years ago I refused to even finish one lap?” 

For me, the best feeling I ever have as a swimmer, is when my timing improves during competitions. It doesn’t matter if it’s just a few milliseconds, or if I don’t place in the top three, the only thing that matters the most is timing. Knowing that I have achieved a new record for myself is a great feeling and it motivates me to do even better in the future. 

However, swimming tends to be a very unforgiving sport. One microsecond can separate the winner from the runner up. It could even be the difference between a record breaker. The most minute of differences in timing can lead to heartbreak and disappointment like no other. In my opinion, swimming is one sport where you’re basically competing with yourself the most, and not so much with others. At the end of the day, the lesson we learn is that sometimes accepting failure is more important than priding over victory. 

Last but not least, looking back on how much I've learnt and grown throughout my years in the swim team, I have no regrets despite the what I went through. This may sound cliché, but without my parents, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I’ve wanted to give up swimming countless times, but my parents were the ones who helped me get back on my two feet. 

They knew how much I despise swimming, yet they always believed in me, and I'm so grateful for that. I would be lying if I said I have a passion for swimming even now. I don’t, but I have definitely learnt a lot from it. Without becoming a swimmer, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. 

by Unknown 14:44 39 comments | in , , , ,
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Saturday 28 September 2013

by Tai Kai Xin, Senior 1 Cempaka, IBDP Class of 2015

..... and the next team through to the grand finals is from Cempaka Schools Damansara Heights!

Our utter astonishment was still apparent on our faces, as Azmin, Shi Jinn and I took our seats on stage, the Quiz Master's words taking it's time to sink into our brains. You could say that we were pleasantly surprised when our team made it through to the finals, out of the 220 teams that competed. I guess the last-minute cram study session we did in the bus was worth it. With nervous jitters, we stared down at the sea of competitors, still unable to register the fact that we were among the top 6 teams from Kuala Lumpur.

The 6th Annual Interact Quiz, organized by the Rotary Club of Bandar Sunway drew over 660 participants from close to 70 secondary schools across three states - Kuala Lumpur, Johor Bharu and Kota Kinabalu. Earlier that day, a written preliminary round which consisted of 30 subjective questions covering topics such as science, history, geography, astronomy, culture, technology and entertainment took place. Prior to quiz day, my teammates and I had scanned through some of the past year questions and judging from the difficulty of them, we were absolutely convinced that we had little to no chance of making the brutal cut which the preliminary round held - 140 KL teams to just 6. Being first-time participants, we had little exposure and close to no proper preparation, whereas some of the other competitors seemed like they had been preparing for weeks. Some teams made use of every precious little second, frantically skimming through question books or swiping through Wikipedia pages on their phones. As the questions were revealed and our blank answer sheet soon filled up, we expected nothing but the unexpected. However, little did we know the day held more surprises for us.

Put down the pens and pick up the microphones. Welcome to the Grand Finals! The six Kuala Lumpur team finalists joined the winning Johor Bharu and Kota Kinabalu state teams, rounding up the top 8 teams. They don't call it the Grand Finals for nothing as the difficulty rose to a whole new level.

"How did Kekule's idea for the cyclic structure of benzene come about? The clue is in the picture!"

"What dance is this called? Clue - it's two words and the first word has the name of a country."

"What does the e in e= 2.71828182846 stand for?"

"Name the three aircrafts in the picture displayed in the Smithsonian Museum."

Well, if you're looking gobsmacked at the computer screen, (unless you've peeked at the answers of course!) our faces probably had identical facial expressions that day. From boson and fermion particles to basketball strategies to random entertainment trivia. "Based on the movie Pacific Rim, what is the monster called and why?" 

We did manage to answer a few questions here and there, but in the end out of the two hundered and twenty teams that participated, we placed 7th, after an intense tiebreaker for 6th place (which came down to a question on naming the elements of the iron triad).

Looking back, although I initially had some trouble convincing one of my team mates to join the team, it was a truly valuable (and unexpected) experience which I know none of us regretted. We came in thinking we knew absolutely nothing, but look where we ended up in the end - 7th in the nation. It just goes to show that you'll never know if you don't try and the worst you can do is fail at it. I'll definitely look back on this experience one day, laughing at how we didn't get the question on Ironman's arc reactor correct, but remembering the approach the three of us took to answering the questions. We did not rely on one person to know the entire answer but rather, we pieced together small bits of information each of us knew to come up with the best possible guess. A big well done to the other seven teams who represented Cempaka as well. I'm proud of all of them.
by Kai Xin Tai 16:20 27 comments | in , , , ,
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Friday 27 September 2013

by Nadia Marissa, Class of 2014, Junior 2 Science 2

Fighting was familiar
(friends fight, families fight) 
Guns were good
(latest technology, 50 calibers) 
And war, 
War is home 
(I had never known anything else) 

My playground was a battlefield,
Of bullets and death.
I played like a soldier,
Cherishing every breath.

My mother’s eyes were brown,
But these days, she’s blue. 
She won’t let me go into town, 
There’s nothing I’m allowed to do. 

My brothers do not know,
About fighting or the war. 
They like missing school, 
Staying home is no chore. 

My father joined the protests,
He wants a better life.
But oh father don’t you see? 
Fighting does not end strife.

My country is at war,
And so war became my home.
At this point in time,
It seems everyone stands 

Monday 23 September 2013

by Encik Hisham, Director of Development & Business Studies Teacher, Class of 2001

Had I known on Friday the 9th of September, I would be teaching for the last time in the Damansara Campus for the year, I don't know what would have gone through my mind. Of course now, in hindsight, many memories come flooding back from my own school days at Damansara Campus. But at that moment in time, my mind was elsewhere. Probably like many other Cempakans I was thinking about the coming weekend, although United wasn't playing, about how it would be a nice time to rest and get to grading my IGCSE Trial papers. I was also thinking about the week ahead, like most teachers are wired to, looking forward to the class activities, the discussions and the lessons I would be delivering.

That all obviously changed very quickly on Friday night. I was relaxing after dinner, enjoying some Splinter Cell (a great game!), when I received a call from Encik Raphael. He sounded worried and confused at the same time, asking me if Damansara campus was on fire. The immediate image that appeared in my mind was a small fire, something trivial that wasn't a cause for concern. I looked out the window of my house which, I think a lot of Cempakans realize from many of Dato' Freida's tweets, has a perfect view of the campus. The image I saw will stay with me forever - bright and blazing. The next few minutes was a blur as I ran to get the keys, jumped into the car and sped to the school. The rest has already been well documented on Twitter, Facebook and our own Schoology.

As you know, a few days after the fire, myself, along with other teachers were in Cempaka Damansara helping to move equipment. Moving from class to class, seeing them empty and bare left a bittersweet feeling with me. I walked the corridors I have always walked since 1990, then as an incredibly cute and fat 5 year old. I recalled all the memories: my tadika days at the canteen level of the primary wing; Standard 2 taught by Ms Choo at the office level; Standard 6 with Mrs Goh at the IT level (which was an old fashioned library back then); Form 1 with Puan Rahimah at the hall level secondary wing; Form 3 with the all star team of Puan Aimi, Puan Sapura and Puan Jamaliah at the link bridge classrooms (no link bridge then either); Form 5 with Cik Zainab, Ms Sandra and of course Mr Sheat next to the IT Centre. Not forgetting my principal then at Form 5, as yours is now, Puan Farah.

On moving day, everyone was involved including the cleaners, gardeners, volunteer students, teachers, principals and even Dato Freida herself - truly a family affair. Yes it was tough, and I am quite sore and have cuts in some places but it was absolutely worth it. How can I justify not helping? My job as a teacher is to ensure you have your education with everything within my power. Right now, besides our Cempaka@Home, I can do that with my two bare hands. And every desk we moved from Cempaka Damansara, meant one more student's education continues. I am truly proud and honoured to be with your other teachers, shoulder to shoulder, working together to ensure your continued education.

As time passed and called me to move on, I felt the pain of saying a slow goodbye to a very dear friend. It's true that we were already planning to move in 2014, but this was sudden and unexpected. The move had to be hastened to get school up and running again, but maybe I wasn't ready to say goodbye yet. Cempaka Damansara, I've learnt over the last few days, means more to me than I ever realised.

This is where I grew up, in every sense of the phrase. I was always among the earliest to school, and would stay back late most of the time (I walked to and from school). School holidays were spent working in the school bookmart, family dinners listening to my parents discussing school matters. More recently during my summer holidays from university, I interned in various departments of the school. This was my childhood.

Yes, my parents were extremely busy running the school, and except during the later years of my school life, my older brothers were at university. Yet, I never ever begrudged them that, how could I? A whole school raised me! A school, created for myself and my brothers that has since evolved into an institution of learning that serves other children. That is perhaps the most important lesson I learnt from my parents - that our place on this Earth is to be of service to others, to make others' lives better. I truly believe that these values are absolutely core to being a Cempakan.

I love Cempaka. I care for the school. I hurt when it hurts. I know some will think it is ridiculous. How can one love a building or an organization? Of course you can't. I love the teachers that taught me and raised me like I love my own parents. I love all of you students like my younger siblings (not my children okay, I am not that old…). It may not always seem very obvious with me and my prickly nature sometimes, but it is true!

Furthermore, let's not forget Cempaka Cheras, who greeted Cempaka Damansara's call for help with open arms. As a proud alumni of both campuses, I was incredibly touched by the teachers and students of Cheras Campus who helped to unload equipment from Damansara without complaints but instead with warm smiles and open hearts. Once again, they embody the values of Cempaka - being of service to others.

We are a family together. We triumph together, we hurt together, and we persevere together.
I know this is not goodbye for good to Cempaka Damansara, but perhaps it is more of a "see you soon". We will be back, stronger than ever. #CempakaBoleh

Click here to read the full article or other pennings by Encik Hisham on his blog.
Side-note: Hashtag #CempakaBoleh when you tweet about the big move for Lumen Studet's special CempakaBoleh issue, or #DsaraDays for cherished memories of dear old Damansara.

Saturday 21 September 2013

It's been two weeks since part of our school caught on fire. A week filled with challenges, updates, floods of tweets, but most ultimately, filled with changes for the whole Cempakan community. We thought we'd have a bit more time to let the idea of moving to Cheras sink in. However with the unexpected fire breaking out, everyone found that they'd have to adapt to the change a little quicker than expected.

A fire breaking out, having to move schools - if anyone could be better equipped to handle a situation like this, it's Cempakans. With Dato and Dr Rizal at the helm, with the whole community of students, teachers and parents right behind her, we're already back on our feet, and stronger than ever.

Photo credit: @freidapilus

Desk by desk, book by book, everything had to be transferred from Damansara to Cheras. With every Cempakan - be it a teacher or student, from Damansara or Cheras - eager to lend a helping hand, this herculean task was accomplished in a matter of days.

"Every desk moved is a child's learning continued." - Dato Freida Pilus

Photo credit: Dato' Frieda

Major assembly lines, starting from entrances all the way to classrooms (up several floors!) were formed. It was really heartening to see our fellow Cempakans from Cheras guide us through the buildings that we regarded as a maze, what with its unending stairs, bridges and look-a-like blocks. In the weeks to come we know that they'll continue to guide other lost students as well, as they are already proving that the part of host and receiver will be played to the best of their ability.

Now, the classrooms in our beloved school stand bare, without desks and chairs or even a whiteboard. The labs are empty, the lockers all cleared out, the hallways and corridors deserted and empty. Who knew it'd be the last time we'd gather in the foyer for morning assembly, practice in our beloved dance studio, fall asleep listening to the teachers droning on and on in class, or even play in the field?

The whitewashed building standing on Bukit Damansara has been our home for the past 30 years. And now, Cempakans are rebuilding it together. Not just wall by wall, brick by brick but also memory by memory. "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened." - Dr Seuss

Smile because you were there to see another successful big splash. Smile because of all the  performances put up in the hall, all the routines practiced in the dance studio. Smile because of all the times you've trained on the field or on the courts; all the things you've learnt, both inside and outside of the classrooms. Smile because you and your friends are still together, part of one big family.

Photo credit: Dato' Frieda

Things change, memories don't. Not only will memories of our beloved Damansara never fade, but in time to come, we'll build new ones together.

And we shall smile again.

Side-note: Hashtag #CempakaBoleh when you tweet about the big move for Lumen Studet's special CempakaBoleh issue, or #DsaraDays for cherished memories of dear old Damansara.

Friday 20 September 2013

by Jamie Kok Yixin, Class of 2013, Form 5 Science 1
"Never give up before you even start the match. Always play your best no matter how good the opponents are and don't ever let them disrupt your game plan."- Shariffah Dayana, U-18 Netball Team Captain 2013

The Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation Malaysia (WSFFM) Netball Championship 2013 was held last weekend on the 13-15th September. The Cempaka Netball Team participated enthusiastically, seeing this opportunity as a golden experience, and also as a time for us to create new (and for some, our last) memories on court. On Saturday morning, the players of Cempaka A (one of the four teams sent by Cempaka Schools) set off for the Pusat Sukan Universiti Malaya, geared up and ready to dominate the courts once more with both hope and team spirit flying high. 

All of our teams fought hard, coordinating with each other's attack and defense, and tried our best to take control of the game. Every shot that went in, every intercepted ball and every cheer shouted was accomplished through sheer team spirit. At the end of the day, it was announced that each team had successfully made it through to the quarter finals the next day. 

This being my last netball competition ever with the team, I’ll admit that even though our eyes were set on the grand prize, we cherished the last time we would ever be on court together. In contrast to the competitive air and thick tension during MSSKL season, this time we were all about playing together as a team and motivating each other. I’ll also admit we were just a tad bit rusty after staying indoors all month to study, but thankfully there were no fainting or injuries (embarrassingly out-of-breath, gasping young ladies would be the closest picture).

Therefore, despite the disappointment that met us the next morning that got us sent home earlier than expected, it was a bus full of happy, energized players that went back, with stronger bonds reinforced and treasured memories shared. 

Besides, there's a humility and greater lesson learnt in defeat than in victory. As Chin Wye Mun aptly puts it, "I'd rather be on the losing team with all of you, than on the winning team with none of you." 

Who would ever forget the defying moments on court, when one players takes a chance (much to the astonishment of the team coach by the sidelines) and brings a goal for the team? " I'll always remember Kai Xin's face before she shot that awesome goal, " said 
Amanda Lee Yue Ping, U-18 Netball Team Captain 2014. 

"Shooting from a distance is a 50/50 thing - you either have Cik Zainab berating you after an unsuccessful attempt, or leave her speechless. The former is more common," replies Tai Kai Xin, netball team senior player and also full time daredevil goal shooter. 

Ah, of course, who could forget our beloved coach who's been with us through all the years, thick and thin, rain or shine? "I'll miss hearing Cik Zainab shouting by the sidelines and doing the opposite of what she says," says Wong Sher Lynn, netball team senior player.

Well..... some things never change.

There’s a quote that goes Teamwork is the ability to work as a group toward a common vision, even if that vision becomes extremely blurry.” 
Sure, we might have missed our goal a couple of times this year, but maybe with just a little polishing of glasses or rubbing of eyes, coupled with nurturing patience and discipline, that vision that we strive towards will suddenly become clear and within reach. And I have no doubt about that for the future of our netball team. 

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” 
― Helen Keller

Cempaka Damansara Netball Team

A special thank you to Cik Zainab and Cik Bella, our dedicated netball coaches, and to Cik Najihah who came back just to support the team! Also to Encik Salleh, our ever supportive sports department head coach. Not forgetting Cik Atiqah and Puan Ida, who were the pillars of support for the other Cempaka teams from Cheras and CILC. Finally, a shoutout to the Cempaka Netball Team, whether from Damansara, Cheras or CILC - may our glory days never see the end of its light.

Last words: A word of advice for the next year's team from Wong Shi Jinn, senior netball player: "Heads or Tails? Simple question - just don't trust Amanda with it."
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Thursday 19 September 2013

Submitted by Wong Sher Lynn, Junior 2 Cempaka, Class of 2013

Submitted by Law Veng Yee (Valerie), Junior 1 Cempaka, Class of 2014

Submitted by Aw Kah Yan, Form 4 Science 1, Class of 2014

Submitted by Phang Yin Shin (Kristen), Freshmen Cempaka, Class of 2017

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Wednesday 18 September 2013

by Akhilan Manivannan, Sophomore 2 Cempaka, Class of 2015

The reigning Premier League champions have suffered a relatively floundering start to this season, with a goalless draw against Chelsea and a stinging 1- 0 loss to their bitter rivals, Liverpool. This was perhaps expected by some fans as Manchester United has come under new management for the first time in 27 years. So great was former manager Sir Alex Ferguson that when his retirement was announced, many fans were flabbergasted as to who could take over the red-hot reins of the Red Devils. That man, handpicked by Sir Alex himself, is David Moyes. 

It’s safe to say that Manchester United has not enjoyed their start to the season that they usually relish. Instead, they have strung together uninspiring performances that sorely lack creativity in midfield. This further highlights their failure in the transfer window, having only signed one - Marouane Fellaini on deadline day. In addition, David Moyes has also come under scrutiny for his tendencies to play safe as well as bringing the “Everton style” to United in the past few matches. 

However, is this truly the crisis that fans have made out to be for the reigning English champions? No, it is not.

Any manager in the world would take time and support to get accustomed to life at Manchester United. After all, the players need time to adapt to Moyes’s style as well. Both these aspects cannot happen in just a few months. Quite simply, when a new manager is introduced, results take time and fans need to give Moyes a fair chance at establishing himself. It is much too early to judge. Moyes cannot even be blamed for playing it safe as he does not know the players well enough yet to be too creative with his line-ups. Nevertheless, there are a few things he can do for the fans to start believing in him.

Playing to win. Manchester United is one of the most competitive clubs in the world and fans expect trophies every season. The club already has a winning atmosphere unlike any other in the Premier League (and quite frankly playing for draws will not be tolerated at Man Utd). Sir Alex Ferguson has done a magnificent job in building a winning mentality into the players which Moyes should take full advantage of. This is understandably difficult for Moyes though, as during his many years at Everton, he has been an expert at defensively frustrating top tier oppositions. Nontheless, this is Manchester United not Everton and Moyes needs to slowly embrace the attacking nature of the club.

Utilizing the younger players. At the moment, Manchester United has some of the most promising young players in the league and it is a shame to see them left out of the team or warming the bench. Players such as Kagawa, Zaha and Januzaj have magnificent prospects. All they need is game time experience. Furthermore, the creativity problems that Man Utd has been facing lately can be easily solved. A prime example is the Belgian Adnan Januzaj, who lit up a recently lackluster game against Crystal Palace - the 18 year-old genuinely had the look of a superstar in the making. Understandably though as mentioned earlier, Moyes does need time to get to know his players but I would love to see him slowly implement these younger players into the first team.

Last but not least, putting his own personal stamp on the team. The toughest part of Moyes’s job is to not be caught under Sir Alex’s shadow and at the same time, embrace the nature of the club that Sir Alex has nurtured. This is obviously tricky because of how much Sir Alex has impacted the club. Walking the line between uniqueness and effectiveness is a monumental task. If Moyes can step out of Sir Alex’s shadow and execute his own brand of football at the club, while still honing the club’s attacking mentality, he will have succeeded against all odds and this is more or less what I think David Moyes should do to establish himself at Manchester United.

"Glory, glory Man United!
As the reds go marching on on on!"

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Monday 16 September 2013

by Nadia Marissa, Junior 1 Cempaka, Class of 2014

This movie held no interest for me at first. The name sounded pretty dubious, and I had lost interest in huge robots fighting monsters around the same time Megan Fox did. But the reviews rolled in and everyone kept talking about how good the movie was. As a summer blockbuster, I was surprised to discover that the movie had no clichéd, romantic subplot. Even more surprising was the emphasis on the strength of the main female character—a woman who was a person of colour and wasn’t a femme fatale. Pacific Rim had me reeled in.

The movie is set in the distant future in a sort of pre-apocalyptic world where Kaijus (monsters who literally come to the Earth just to mess things up) attack the cities on a more or less weekly basis. To combat these attacks, the military develop the Jaegar Program. Jaegars are essentially huge Transformer-esque robots that have to be piloted by two people who are engaged in a neural bridge called a drift. In other words, two people share their minds, memories and instincts in order to control this really big, really cool robot.

“The stronger the bond, the better the drift.”

These are the words ingrained in every Jaegar pilot. Our central character, Raleigh Beckett (played by Charlie Hunham) knows this better than anyone—especially after he lost his copilot and brother in a Jaegar knockout while they were still ‘connected’. After his brother died, he knew copiloting a Jaegar with anyone else would be painful and not as effective. So he became a bum; typical of many other heroes in movies like these—they have to fall before rising from the ashes and emerging as better people who save the day.

Cut to about 5 years after his brother’s death and Raleigh is re-recruited into the Jaegar Program by Idris Elba’s character, Stacker Pentercoast. And really, who could possibly say no to Idris Elba? Reluctantly (as all these heroes are at first), he rejoins the Jaegar Academy and meets Mako Mori—Pentercoast’s adopted daughter. Here’s the catch, throughout the movie, Mako Mori is consistently shown to be of equal strength and power to Raleigh—that is incredible. Played by the talented Rinko Kinkuchi, she continuously outsmarts and surprises Raleigh at every turn. In the list of candidates for copilots that Mako put together for Raleigh, he beat every one of them, except her. 

It’s rare that such a nuanced and well thought out female character appears in what I perceived to be little more than a summer blockbuster. It’s even rarer to find a movie that puts two people of the opposite sex on level ground without any typical romantic-comedy undertones. The fact that Raleigh chose Mako as his copilot places her as the person he is willing to share his mind—and to a further extent his soul—with. He couldn’t do that if he didn’t respect her as a person. 

On the surface, Pacific Rim seems like another rehash of the Transformer genre. Yet, it is so much more than that. This is a movie that, at its very core, rejoices at humanity’s knack for survival. It is smart, complex and interesting without being dense. Yes, the hero ultimately saves the day in the end, but it was the journey he went on and the people he did it with that I enjoyed the most.

Rating: 5/5 

[The high rating may seem incredulous to you, but if you enjoy action movies and have at least half a brain, you’ll probably agree with me.] 
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Submitted by Lim Jade, Junior 1 Cempaka, Class of 2014
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Saturday 14 September 2013

by Cassandra Law and Megan Ong, Junior 2 Cempaka, Class of 2013

Mr Callum Shipley began teaching in Cempaka in the new academic year of 2011, whereas Ms Lissette Simone Abel began teaching Cempakans in 2012. We (Megan and Cassandra) have had the lovely opportunity to interview the two international school teachers; Ms Lissette, who hails from the USA, as well as Mr Callum Shipley, who is originally from Swaziland. Ms Lissette teaches the Sophomore students English, and the Junior 2 students English Literature. She also teaches the IB students English and is the House Master of Rumah Merpati for the year 2013. Mr Shipley used to teach Geography but currently teaches the lower Secondary students Math. He also guides the IB students with their Extended Essay and teaches the ESS course (Environmental Systems and Societies). Furthermore, Mr Shipley is the teacher-in-charge of the school frisbee team, Cempaka Chillies! They were both kind enough to spare a few moments of their time to tell us about their experience in Cempaka thus far, as well as some of their interests and their background. 

YJC : How did you get to know about Cempaka Schools? 

Ms Lissette (LSA): Somebody I worked with in Japan told me about this school. She was a friend of mine, and she was also a teacher from America.

Mr Shipley (CS): A friend of mine contacted me and let me know that there was a school that was worthwhile to look at.

YJC : What was your first impression of Cempakans, teachers and students alike? How has your time in Cempaka been so far? 

LSA : My first impression of Cempakans were that Cempakans are very busy. There are so many activities going on in Cempaka, all at the same time! An enjoyable type of busy, but still busy.

CS : My first impression? Gracious and helpful teachers. Friendly students. Oh, and I've never before seen students so involved with their laptops! My time in Cempaka? GREAT.

YJC : Where were you from before you came here? Do you notice any major difference in Malaysia than where you were originally from?

LSA : I was originally from Seattle, in the United States of America. However, before I came to Malaysia, I was teaching in Japan. Things are very relaxed here, compared to Japan. In the U.S., things are also relaxed in different ways. 

CS : I am originally from Swaziland and I was in Thailand for three years. Yes, big difference besides climate, environment, cultures and languages. HUGE difference between Malaysia and Swaziland, though.

YJC : If you were teaching there previously, how is Cempaka different from the previous school you were teaching at?

LSA : I actually taught in the U.S. and Japan, but Cempaka is different from both. There are many differences, but some really big differences are - students in Cempaka enjoy voicing their opinions. which was very difficult to do in Japan. It is also different from the students in the U.S, because Cempakans are way busier. For example, with the extra classes, Cempakans stay back frequently, where American students would just go ‘NO’.

CS : It was really different because the students at the school in Thailand couldn’t really speak English, so I had to teach English as a Foreign Language (EFL). I taught Maths, Geography and English there.

YJC : Have you visited anywhere exciting in Malaysia? What's your favorite Malaysian delicacy?

CS: Hm, I visited a few places but I don’t really know if they were exciting. I’ve visited Pulau Pangkor, Cameron Highlands and Port Dickson. The most enjoyable place would be Cameron Highlands though. Malaysian delicacy? Oh, I don’t know, name me some. 

YJC :  Kuih lapis, Nasi lemak, Roti Canai?

CS : I like tosai and those cubes of rice with peanut sauce that comes with satay - I don’t eat the satay though. Also, there’s a dessert that I like, it’s a white cube with grated brown sugar and coconut. I think it’s called ubi?

YJC : I think you mean ketupat! *laughs* Yes, it’s called ubi. Kuih ubi kayu! Which of the 3 cuisines do you like most? Malay, Chinese or Indian?

CS : I like dishes from all 3 cuisines (Malay, Chinese, Indian), but it really depends on my mood!

YJC : Why are you teaching English? Were you always into this subject? Were there are any other subjects you liked as well?

LSA : I am teaching English because I taught English in Japan, as well as reading in the U.S. Yes, I was into English and History too. I actually minored in History in university.

YJC : Why are you teaching Geography and Math? Were you always into Geography and Math? Were there are any other subjects you liked as well?

CS : Yes, I really love these subjects. I love to study them myself but why I’m teaching them? Well, we can leave that alone.. but I really love those subjects! I like to learn about them myself. I really enjoyed English Literature, Science and Music. I loved Music.

YJC : Were you good at them? 

CS : Well that’s debatable, i just love them though!

YJC : Any interests/hobbies? 

LSA : Some of my hobbies would be computer games, comic books and traveling.

CS : Yes, lots! Some of them are making music with the guitar, reading science fiction and fantasy stories, studying astrophysics, and climbing mountains. Also, lots of sports in general.

YJC : You said you like mountain climbing. Have you climbed Mount Kinabalu yet?

CS : No, not yet but I am definitely planning to! I’d also recently got into badminton and ultimate, two sports I never knew sports existed before I came here. Well I knew that badminton existed but I had no idea what it was about though. We don’t really play it in South Africa. As for Ultimate, that I’ve never heard of in South Africa. The main sports in South Africa are cricket, rugby, football.

YJC : What inspired you to teach and at what age did you know that teaching was the right choice for you?

LSA : I tutored students while I was still in high school and also college, trying to test it out to see if it was the right choice for me. In university, I tried to decide between teaching and computer programming. I was not very into computer programming though, it was boring. Teaching is different, teaching changes. It isn’t static, it’s constantly changing, unlike sitting behind a desk doing the same task everyday!

CS : It’s actually quite a long story to explain that, but.. *cue laughter* what inspired me to teach was to try and make a difference in children and young adults’ lives. I only knew what I really wanted to do only when I was about 25. It was only after I left the South African Air Force (SAAF) where I worked as an engineer that I really thought of pursuing it. 

YJC : You went to Thailand right after that, yes?

CS : Yes, I went to Thailand to teach after that. Well actually, after I left the SAAF, I helped my parents to build a house and started a fruit tree orchard (peaches, apricots, plums, figs), then I went to Thailand to teach! 

YJC : What training was required to obtain this goal?

LSA : Years and years of high school and university education. It’s a little confusing because people here say that they start college at the age of 16... which is really young!

CS : Well you have to have a Bachelor’s degree but I did a Post Graduate Certificate of Education (PGCE) so my Bachelors is in engineering. Hence I got my Masters in Education with a PGCE as a first step (but that’s my route, other people do a Bachelor’s of Education). 

YJC : Do you ever regret becoming a teacher and if you were able to do over would you choose something else?

LSA : The only thing I’d rather do other than teaching is to be Indiana Jones!

CS : No - except perhaps, a scientist at NASA or a musician. I would also want to get into rural and agricultural development, I might still do that, but I don’t know, we’ll see yeah? Got to go with the flow sometimes! *smiles*

YJC : Musician? Do you only play the guitar?

CS : Mainly guitar. I also play the didgeridoo and a little bit of the drums.

YJC : Wow! Is the didgeridoo hard to play? Did you take classes?

CS : Well, not really. It does take a lot of practice to make the range of sounds though. You need to learn how to breathe properly, as the sound has to be very smooth. And no, I didn’t take classes. I just read instructions from the internet.

YJC : Isn’t it expensive to buy the didgeridoo though?

CS : No not really, because the one I had, I made out of bamboo myself.

YJC : What is one question you might have expected us to ask, but didn't? 

LSA : I think you pretty much covered everything, I expected most of the questions you asked!

CS : Who is the most annoying student in the school? No comment! *cue laughter*

YJC : Thank you so much for your time, it’s been a pleasure getting to know you!
by Cassandra Law 17:25 22 comments | in , , , , ,
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