Saturday 28 December 2013

by Khor Su Wern, Sophomore 2 Cempaka, Class of 2015

My fairly long plane flight of nearly eight hours finally touched down in Japan’s second largest island, Hokkaido. I feared at first that there wouldn’t be any snow left by the time I visited Japan. Thankfully, to my relief, when I reached my hotel there was a fresh carpet of snow on the ground. And so on the first day of my trip, I got the chance to learn how to ski! After breakfast, I suited up in layers upon layers of warm clothing, gathered my ski equipment and stepped out into the frosty winter paradise.

Photo Credit : Khor Su Wern

As anyone who knows me can testify, I’m not much of a thrill-lover but skiing was genuinely exciting. I highly recommend everyone to at least try skiing in Hokkaido if one gets the chance. It’s a wonderful experience and I would certainly do it again. After skiing up and down the slopes, my family and I visited Lake Toya, a large volcanic crater lake which never freezes, even during the frigid winter when the temperature is bone-chilling. Later in the day we got the chance to go on a cable car up to Mount Usuzan. From our small compartments high up, we could glance down at the scenic view below which included an active volcano in the valley. Upon reaching the very peak of Mount Usuzan we were greeted by a beautiful, panoramic view of Mount Showa Shinzan and Lake Toya down below, waves still flowing gently across its surface although the ground was covered in snow.

Photo Credit : Khor Su Wern

The next day we visited Jigokudani, also known as Hell Valley, where columns of steam constantly rise from the numerous crevasses in the rocks. It was snowing heavily when we reached Hell Valley - the entire area was covered in a thick sheet of snow! Had I sat on one of their benches long enough, I would be so well-covered in snow that I would resemble a snowman (a shivering, rather thin snowman, but a snowman nonetheless). We then journeyed to the small harbour city of Otaru which is situated northwest of Sapporo (the capital of Hokkaido). This was definitely one of my favourite places throughout my visit. The Otaru Canal (also known as “The Big Drain”) is a short and narrow waterway running through the harbour town which is known for it's incredible history. Given it's picturesque look, it's also a great spot for pictures.

Photo Credit : Khor Su Wern

Otaru’s streets are packed with craft. It's where glass handicraft shops, a music box museum, art galleries, and cute Japanese souvenir shops are located. Not to mention the well-known lavender ice-cream that's only, exclusively sold in this area. Yes, ‘lavender’ ice-cream. It combines the unique lavender fragrance and taste with the smooth, creamy texture of ice cream with the added benefit of making your mouth smell of perfume. It is definitely a must-try if you ever travel to Otaru!

Photo Credit : Khor Su Wern

If you’re a huge fan of Japanese animes such as: Totoro, Rilakkuma, Pokemon, Hello Kitty, Spirited Away, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Doraemon etcetera, you’re guaranteed to go nuts about the abundance of cute merchandise here. There are rows upon rows of shops filled with 'kawaii’ (cute) Japanese cartoon merchandise and goodies. Being a huge Totoro fan, naturally I visited the Totoro shop. The minute I entered their two-storey shop located near the famous music box shop and museum, my jaw dropped. You can find nearly all kinds of knick-knacks, from Totoro chopsticks to Tupperware holders to Totoro music box keychains. I highly recommend this area if you are a cutesy-anime fanatic-like me!

After we were finished walking through Otaru's many winding streets, we visited Shiroi Koibito park, which not only has fantastic winter decorations including real snow (take that, Malaysian shopping malls) and reminds me of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but also produces and sells some of Hokkaido's finest confectionery. Outside the factory, once you get pass the stunningly spectacular winter decorations, there’s a small dwarf village filled with cute, miniature houses each one furnished with doll-sized furniture. And of course, like most people, I couldn’t resist going into one of these little houses (because of my petite size, I managed to fit in them quite comfortably). And the bone-chilling cold outside will definitely make you want to step into their toasty-warm, melted-chocotae-smelling store which sells some very well-known chocolates, hard candy and many more delectables!

Photo Credit : Khor Su Wern
To conclude my journey to Hokkaido, I dropped by Odori Park, the venue for the annual ice carving festival where, as you've probably guessed, contestants carve ice. Every February, master craftsmen will carve impossible sculptures using only ice, chisels and hammers, and lots of hard work and determination. Hokkaido, with it's beautiful scenery, both natural and man made, is truly a winter wonderland. Indeed, I was sad to say ‘Sayonara’ to this wonderful place but at least I’d keep the amazing experience.

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Wednesday 25 December 2013

by Nur Habibah Ishak, Junior 1 Cempaka, Class of 2014

If there was one piece of clothing worth investing in, it would have been the sweater and more specifically, the sweatshirt. Givenchy set the sweatshirt trend a few seasons ago — ever since a dog’s head (a Rottweiler, with a snarling nose and panting tongue) growled from the catwalk of the Givenchy men’s show. And now, this trend is popping up in countless other street fashion collections, filling the Autumn/Winter collections of 2013 with a plethora of cozy garments. 

Bottega Veneta

With rich imagination and creativity, designers are experimenting not only with colour or print (if you’re not into Bambi, the leopard print is a smart option or maybe even some Jeremy Scott), but with architectural shapes, materials and graphic logos too (Kenzo’s got this in the bag) - making the sweater into a fashion item to suit everyone’s taste. Plus, comedic catchphrases can add a certain affinity to that sense of humour - much like Ashish’s contrasting phrases; from “Have a Nice Day” and “Don’t Forget To Smile” to “Shut Up, You’re Not My Real Dad”;  Behavior that now seems frisky and semi-adorable would have landed you in reform school 60 years ago. Presentation isn’t the only key factor here though. The main point of wearing a sweater is to keep you warm, no? Unless of course, it’s for the sake of fashion which in my case, is quite frequent. 

Jeremy Scott sweater

At this point in the season, it’s safe to assume you’re building a close-knit relationship with your favorite sweaters. The story this winter - unfortunately not in Malaysia - is either the big cotton sweatshirt, a version in high-tech fabric, or the original thick wool knit sweater worn with a full, knee-length skirts or with pants and other fitted bottoms. The lower halves that go with the modern tops are often conventionally designed: full skirts, others pleated and some long and slightly transparent. Pants are narrow, recalling the image of Marilyn Monroe photographed in a chunky sweater with taut knee-length trousers. Now we all know the actual sweating part (thus sporting) has nothing to do with this hit item; not anymore at least. Just make sure to pair it with some type of skirt (as seen at Hilfiger, Matthew Williamson, Kenzo, and Philip Lim) to give it an extra feminine twist. Sweater combos of all types and varieties rolled down the runways of the top designers for Autumn/Winter 2013.


Bottega Veneta created a simple Italian day-to-night look, with a matching colour palette that hides the casualness of a sweater. In Paris, Nina Ricci came up with a beautiful evening statement look, combining a silk evening skirt and layered cashmere sweaters with a cropped sleeve and matching wrist warmers. An oversized knit also acts as a dress, with a plain neckline and V-neck in fashion (as seen in Vivienne Westwood Red Label and Chanel). Although power hips and shoulders aren’t my taste, Balmain courageously rocked the Eighties feel with a structured (MC Hammer alert!) as well as one-off shoulder looks paired with magnified waists and voluminous harem hybrids below.

Nina Ricci

Inevitably, the sharp, fast-fashion companies have followed the trend. And it’s just as well, because the designer prices for what would once have been considered as sport and weekend wear have now soared sky high. Click on Net-a-Porter and the cost of a sweater for the top designer labels is $2,000 to $3,000, with the Givenchy Bambi — sold out almost everywhere — in Neoprene at $1,375. At cheapest, prices for these upscale sweatshirts start at at least $150. 

The Givenchy Bambi sweater

Based on New York Times, not only is the cost of a sweater for the top designer labels increasing but it crosses genres and genders too. A business once raised in cashmere and class has become more tougher and androgynous nowadays. The basic materials are often high tech and presented in a street style; the sloppy shape of a sweater not meant to imprint a shapely figure or enhance feminine allure. No complaints though. I still love sweaters.

Half a century ago, the pretty, decorated shrugs were plainly meant to lend a bit of cozy warmth to chilly shoulders, but sweaters now prove to be a sign of elegance - Riccardo Tsici, you did good. Seventy years ago, who knew that sheer skirts and pointed heels could make Bambi look glamorous?
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Amanda Lee Yue Ping, Class of 2014, Junior 1 Cempaka

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

Submitted by Lim Jade, Class of 2014, Junior 1 Cempaka

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Monday 23 December 2013

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

Having seen both An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation of Smaug several times — before I’d read the book and after — this is clearly Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit, not Tolkien’s.

In its entirety, The Hobbit, unlike its sequel, was merely a serial that Professor J.R.R. Tolkien initially wrote to read to his three sons. After being persuaded by his colleagues at Oxford and a publishing company, he eventually completed it. 

It’s about a well-to-do hobbit - little people about half our height - named Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), who, thanks to a wizard named Gandalf (Ian McKellen), finds thirteen dwarves at his doorstep one day. He then accompanies them on a long adventure to recover the treasures of the dwarves’ ancestors. Along the way they encounter trolls, a dragon, orcs, elves, men, all the while singing rhymes and riddling their way out of trouble.

You don't need to read the Lord of The Rings trilogy to love Jackson’s movie adaptations enough to feel quite excited to see more. So from the first film of The Hobbit, it’s obvious why Jackson would try to adapt Tolkien’s classic children’s book into an epic on the scale of LoTR.

But from the second, not only was it nowhere close, but it seemed like he was aiming to imitate or top his past work and was failing at it. Jackson’s attempted adventure epic is a lot more ‘grown-up’ and tried to be a much darker tale than it actually is. It tried.

Naturally, the films should lack the structure they would have if the book was only split into two parts but really, it can easily be read as three. And considering the high production values demanded by this franchise — shooting in 3D, at 48 frames per second, the sweeping CGI landscapes, and keeping track of 13 dwarves — it's a wise decision. Even so, the tedious length of each film is uncalled for and due, in part, to the unnecessary additional material which are especially prevalent in this one.

We've reached a faster-paced part of the story where Bilbo and company are approaching the Lonely Mountain to face the dragon, Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch), that guards it. 

Radagast is still being driven by bunnies, and Bard the Bowman is now a lowly bargeman, giving leeway to write new scenes only to reach the same conclusion 10 minutes later. Just as Thorin Oakenshield’s ‘death’ was written as a new denouement for the first film, a time-stalling action plan was written for the dwarves to carry out in hopes of defeating Smaug in the second one, only for him to emerge unscathed in the end anyway.

Orlando Bloom was also brought back to set as the silver-haired Wood-elf Legolas, only to be stuck in long choreographies of fight scenes. At first sight, I think back to the innate elven grace of the Legolas of LoTR, then the fighting starts to get a little tired. Scenes are written so he can swoop in and perform a dance of decapitating orcs except it’s less like So You Think You Can Dance and more like Dance Moms.

The lack of female characters always seems to be an issue whenever Tolkien’s works are being discussed. Although I don’t see the need for a main female character in The Hobbit, Jackson’s decision to write in the Wood-elf Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), who is almost as cool as Legolas, is a welcome change.

Alas, even the Middle Earth franchise couldn’t escape from the parasitic plot device that claimed the first Hunger Games movie: a love triangle. One of the reasons why the film fell short, even before I had read the book, is that it is cliched. Likely a half hour of footage was added to entertain the love triangle between Legolas, Tauriel and the young dwarf Kili. Due diligence was put into writing a string of scenes to develop her relationship with the dwarf, which seems all too reminiscent of a fanfic headcanon. The lesson here is: trying to appeal to wider audiences does not justify lazy writing.

Peter Jackson does still have a love and awareness of Tolkien. In the films, he expands on what is going on in the background of our little adventure story, in the wider Middle Earth, drawing from Tolkien’s other works about this fantasy world’s history.

Yet, the real strength of the films lies in the small interactions. These are the scenes where you catch a glimpse of the relationships between the characters or the different races. The emphasis on a more ignorant Master of Lake-Town (Stephen Fry) showed the unbalanced relationship between the ruler of men and the men themselves like Bard. That provided a relatable view in a world as far-removed from our own as Middle Earth. It was also interesting to see how coldly Thorin (Richard Armitage), the king of dwarves was treated by Thranduil (Lee Pace), the Elvenking, reflecting the Wood-elves’ aversion to interfering in foreign affairs.

If there’s one thing these films did right, it is casting Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins because he brings the warmth and lightheartedness that is what these films should embody. It is the iconic scenes like the riddles in the dark between Bilbo and Gollum (Andy Serkis) in the previous film, and the banter between Smaug and Bilbo in the echoing halls of Erebor in this one that are memorable. Sadly, in losing track of the spirit of the story, the film constantly loses track of the main character in a bout of fight scenes and backstory.

I still would take a hobbit film over another blockbuster almost every time. As Laura Hudson of WIRED admits,“Sometimes when you really love something, all you want is more, even if it’s less.”

Despite being riddled by a banal love story and blatantly overdone fight scenes, the film is decent if your attention span can take it. I’m sure the cast and crew of The Hobbit are big fans of Tolkien or are just having a lot of fun making these movies. Middle Earth still looks breathtaking through Jackson’s lenses, even being as CGI-ridden as ever. Smaug really does live up to his name as the Chiefest and Greatest of Calamities.

However, while there is an inherent humour in the characters and especially the dwarves written by Tolkien, Jackson misses it and forces it. That is what these films are — forced. It is a shame that Middle Earth missed its chance to showcase the charm that endeared people like me to the world those many years ago.

Rating: 3.7/5
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by Omisha Lim Phaik Chern Ng, Class of 2017

It’s that time of the year again! The twinkling of lights by the streets, houses filled with joy and laughter, Christmas-themed cakes sold in bakeries and Michael Bublé’s Christmas album repeating in every shopping mall that you walk into. The main focus of this article is on Christmas foods but I would first like to explain a little about Christmas. Well, Christmas is not only known as the day of Jesus Christ’s birth, but it is also an international holiday around the world. Businesses and its employees take time off to gather with their families at home and celebrate Christmas. Some families even go overseas to spend their Christmases in actual snow. 


In the spirit of Christmas, my family and I get together at my grandfather’s house every year. Usually in such a celebration, we would find ourselves with plenty of food laid out on the table to commemorate the joyful occasion. Along with the food, we enjoy each other's company and catch up with relatives.

Now to get on to the feasts of Christmas! There are many traditional Christmas foods that you will find during this time of the year. One I would like to talk about is the fruit cake. Fruit cake is cake baked with dried fruits and nuts. Fruit cakes are also known as the Christmas Cake. Fruit cakes are almost always included on every Christmas menu because they are a delightful addition to the range of food that is brought to the celebration. The fruit cake originated from England; it evolved from plum cake recipes.

Then besides the fruit cake, we also have mince pies amongst the smorgasbord of delicious deserts! The mince pie was originally filled with minced meat, fruit, spices and alcohol. This savoury desert goes back 600 years in British history. King Henry the Fifth was a great fan of them and was served mince pie at his coronation in 1413. 

Now, let’s talk about eggnog! Although it may be uncommon in our society, you may be interested to know about it. Eggnog is a nice and warm beverage sold during Christmas time. It is made out of whipped eggs, sugar, cream and milk. It can be finished up by garnishing with powdered cinnamon or pumpkin spice on the top surface of the beverage. Most people would agree that Eggnog originated from the early medieval time of Britain. Milk, eggs, and sherry were foods of the wealthy, so eggnog was often used as a toast to prosperity and good health. 

There are many other foods that one can find aplenty during the Christmas season. Putting aside the drinks and desert, there's also talk of appetizers and mains. A hearty roast is common for the main dish with beef and turkeys being a popular choice. Of course, a roast would be incomplete without its complementary gravy and sides like boiled vegetables or mashed potato. My mouth waters just thinking of the variety of food served during Christmas! Fresh vegetables, crusty potatoes, succulent meats and sweet deserts are all aplenty on a Christmas dinner (or lunch) table. And of course, plenty of people to help clean off the plates too. 

The amazing food is just one of the many reasons Christmas is such a highly-awaited and merry holiday. Though I understand how the food can be oh-so-tempting, don't forget what Christmas is really about - sharing! It can be hard with food that's so scrumptious but it wouldn't help out waistline anyway to stuff ourselves. Seasons greetings and to all, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! 
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Thursday 19 December 2013

by Austin Ng, Form 3 Cempaka, Class of 2015

Many Malaysians may have heard of this holiday but up until today, have had no clue what it is, when or why it's celebrated.

Some see it merely as "an enacted document orchestrated symbolically and semiotically through eating,” but generally, Thanksgiving Day is when families all over the USA and Canada gather to give thanks for the previous year's harvest. In the United States, it is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November whereas in Canada, it falls on the second Monday of October (or rather Columbus Day in the US).

Thanksgiving is always celebrated with a feast, bringing families back together by way of delicious food. Most iconic is the gargantuan stuffed turkey, so much so that Thanksgiving is also known as Turkey Day in the US.

While a notoriously American holiday, it has its roots in European traditions. In fact, the origins of the Canadian Thanksgiving are more closely linked with European traditions than that of the US. Before North America was colonized, celebrations of thankfulness for the products of the annual harvest took place every October in Europe.

The inaugural Thanksgiving of The Great White North took place when an English explorer by the name of Martin Frobisher arrived in Newfoundland in 1578. The first Thanksgiving of the US, however, can be traced to a 1621 document which marked the celebration in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

That means that the first Thanksgiving in Canada was celebrated 43 long years before the pilgrims disembarked on their journey to Plymouth (take that, America).

In the November of 1621, after the Pilgrims’ first corn harvest (which was a substantial success), Governor William Bradford organized a celebratory feast which was also attended by their Native American allies, including the Wampanoag Indian chief, Massasoit. Now acknowledged as America’s 'first Thanksgiving', the feast lasted for three whole days.

Historians believe it likely that many of the dishes back then were prepared using orthodox Native American spices and cooking methods. The Pilgrims had no ovens and the Mayflower (their ship's) sugar supply had dwindled by the fall of 1621, so there were no pies, cakes or other desserts — a hallmark of contemporary celebrations.

The two distinct holidays do share a similar way of celebrating with their parades and archetypal football games. In America, the most well-known parade is Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade which has been going on since 1924. In Canada, it’s the Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest parade which is broadcast nationwide on CTV every year. And the universal love for football has made the game a part of Thanksgiving as deep-set as pumpkin pie.

Whilst both the holidays are similar, there are some differences between the traditions of both the countries. For instance, what is the significance of Thanksgiving? In America, it is to be thankful for God’s generosity and for the bounty of the Native Americans. In Canada, it is to thank God for a superb harvest. Thanksgiving is optional in Atlantic Canada as well.

Staple Thanksgiving dinner recipes have also evolved in ways unique to Canada and the US. Canadian pumpkin pie is spicy, with ginger, nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon while American pumpkin pie is typically sweet and has custard on it. Canadians bake their sweet potatoes and mash it into a purée while Americans make a casserole topped with marshmallows or candy. Canadians stuff their turkey with bread crumbs or rice while in the US, stuffing is made with cornbread base (in the Southern states), oysters (Eastern states) or rice (Northern states just like Canada). In Canada, they even have the classic Chinese dim sum in lieu of turkey.

They also don’t need to wake up at odd hours to participate in Black Friday.

Now, the day after Thanksgiving is distinguished by heavy shopping, encouraged by generous deals and discounts offered by retailers. What some see as an ironically American celebration, Black Friday commemorates the day when the then hand-written accounting books kept by retail stores would go from red to black (red ink marks a loss, and black a profit). Even after Black Friday, there's still Cyber Monday where people shop heavily online.

Some may say that the true American Thanksgiving Day is obsolete. They want America to do away with the holiday. They tell their children that is it fine to be pleased with what they have, but never to be satisfied. They will constantly be in a state of need. As they've begun to say,“Out with Thanksgiving, in with Thanksgetting.

Yet while the behaviour of consumers on Black Friday will always attract snide remarks from outsiders, Thanksgiving Day will always serve to bring families together no matter how far they may be from each other.

by Anonymous 16:09 23 comments | in , , , ,
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Monday 16 December 2013

by Akhilan Manivannan, Sophomore 2 Cempaka, Class of 2015

Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Science Fiction
Chris Hemsworth as Thor; Natalie Portman as Jane Foster; Tom HIddleston as Loki; Anthony Hopkins as Odin; Christopher Eccleston as Malekith; Idris Elba as Heimdall; Jaimie Alexander as Sif
Alan Taylor
Walt Disney Pictures
Marvel Studios
November 8 2013

Marvel’s favourite god of thunder returns once again to the big screen in “Thor: The Dark World”, a sequel to Thor (2012) and The Avengers. Thor is arguably one of the most beloved characters in the Marvel Universe, directly termed by many as Marvel's Superman - a rather big name to live up to. Due to its basis of norse mythology, Thor does usually have some magnificent stories. This particular tale from the Marvel archive is one drenched in history, with an ancient power called the Aether sparking the return of an old enemy of Asgard. In terms of commercial value, the film definitely lived up to it’s expectations, commanding the box-office opening weekend with a massive revenue of $86 million. However, Thor: The Dark World received some very mixed reviews.

In terms of plot alone, Thor: The Dark World turned out to be a huge step up from it’s prequel in 2012. In fact, Thor: The Dark World is miles more intriguing and it’s level of complexity is surprisingly high. From the Aether to the alignment of worlds, everything is designed perfectly to draw viewers in. Sadly with such a huge plot, there are bound to be plot holes. We're talking a lot of plot holes. At some points in the movie, even those still engrossed with Thor’s fabulous hair could have seen the gaping flaws in the storyline. The director could have definitely put more effort into masking the glaring plot holes but as we've seen time and time again with blockbusters, more focus is put on special effects and making the movie look pretty. Nevertheless, if you can manage to look past the plot-holes, the intricate storyline is a solid reason to watch Thor: The Dark World.

Another thing Thor: The Dark World has over its prequels is its wonderful character development of Loki. While Thor (2012) was almost completely focused on Thor (well he is the main man), Thor: The Dark World gave us a whole new perspective of his adopted brother Loki and his personality. This injects some new interest and flavour into the storyline and gives viewers another perspective to the plot. Furthermore, the Loki character was portrayed hands-down brilliantly by Tom Hiddleston. This was very unexpected as many saw Tom Hiddleston only as a simple understudy to Chris Hemsworth (playing Thor). Hiddleston however emphatically proved the critics wrong and quite frankly, overshadowed Hemsworth at almost every turn.

While Tom Hiddleston and Loki were the most interesting aspects of Thor: The Dark World, Chris Hemsworth's acting and the movie itself was rather lacklustre and disappointing to say the least. Hemsworth in all honesty seemed to take his role for granted and the movie itself did nothing to further the character of Thor. Also, while Loki brought unpredictability and excitement to the movie, Thor brought the exact opposite. Predictability and boredom. Hemsworth played the character with no vulnerability and made him look almost invincible. Furthermore, Thor’s romantic angle with Jane Foster was unbearable to watch. Hemsworth and Portman had absolutely no on-screen chemistry and they were quite frankly boring.

Overall, Thor: The Dark World, whilst having its flaws still adds exciting and intriguing twist to the Marvel Universe. The film is unique, fascinating and has a perfect mix of humour and action. Hiddleston was undoubtedly the stand-out performer and Thor: The Dark World in my opinion, should have been more fittingly called “Loki: The Dark World”. As anyone who has seen it will testify, Loki himself makes the movie worth watching. Alas the plot holes and the dismal acting by Hemsworth drags this film down quite a bit. Certainly not one of the best movies of the year, but it's always fun to watch the bad guys be bad, not to mention, marvel at Thor's flowing locks that can even make Goldilocks jealous.

Rating: 3.5/5
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Saturday 14 December 2013


School is at last over, all the extra-curricular activities have toned down, your hands are starting to forget how to hold a pen, let alone write (it truly is the 21st century when we actually feel more at home at a keyboard rather than with a pen). This is the time that we really let ourselves go - and in more ways than one, judging by our expanding waistlines. 

We're finally free from the restraints of teachers, humid classrooms and annoying alarms that either start your day with a ear-aching blast or fail to wake you up completely. We're free to sleep in just because we feel like it, read books not textbooks, and hole up in our room growing mushrooms and becoming zombies as we satisfy all our TV show and movie cravings. Of course, we're sadly not quite as free as we hope to be, considering the pile of mind maps and add math questions we've promised to do as holiday homework (honestly speaking, it will end up as last minute work).

Besides symbolizing our precious freedom, the month of December is also the month of Christmas! The time of the year which calls for scores of Christmas trees (from simple and elegant to gaudily over-decorated), mugs of hot chocolate, knitted sweaters with reindeers - wait, who are we kidding? Living in Malaysia with our humid weather, actually a teh tarik would more likely do the trick, less Christmassy but just as satisfying, if not even more. Our sweaters are also designed for style rather than warmth; speaking of which, look out for Habibah's (Lumen's trend setter!) report on this month's most standard winter clothing, sweaters. 

We've also got a whole load of other Christmas articles coming your way, from food to travel to shows. So whether you're soaking up the sun and sinking in fine white sand (not to mention getting rid of the horrible tan lines from games Carnival), or having a truly white christmas complete with actual snowflakes, do keep an eye out for updates from the Lumen. For those of you who aren't quite in the yuletide spirit yet, hopefully our articles will get you singing carols and sprucing up your Christmas tree, or rather enjoying the spirit of the season with all your family and friends. Just make sure you don't forget to finish your holiday homework or choose a Place of Interest for Launchpad and of course as always, keep updated with the Lumen Studet!

Happy Holidays!
From Naughty (Amanda Lee) and Nice (Chin Wye Mun)
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Thursday 12 December 2013

by Alisraa Aldin and Austin Ng, Form 3 Cempaka, Class of 2015

As anyone who sat for Penilaian Menengah Rendah (PMR) or Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) would know, sitting for a public examination calls for many sacrifices. These sacrifices are never easy, even if they seem as trivial as having tuition take over your normally free Fridays, or the more painful things like giving up that daily session of DotA with your friends. So naturally, we accepted having to give up one of our weekends to attend the PMR Study Skills workshops.

Photo Credit : Puan Rahimah
This year, the PMR Study Skills was held from April 12th to April 14th. The whole purpose of Study Skills was for us to have a firm understanding of the subjects, and to be able to present what we know to the rest of our peers. To accomplish that, each group had to create an iMovie on the subject that was assigned to us. Throughout the camp, we also had the opportunity to listen to various lectures by teachers from other schools.

After boarding the bus from Damansara, we were led to the Examination Hall at the very top of the N1 building, where the Cheras and Labuan students were already waiting for us. To our surprise, we were greeted with a seemingly random survey on our behaviour. We discovered later that these questions were used to determine whether we were a visual, audio, or kinetic learner. For most of us, it’s still a wonder how questions such as “What would you do if you were mad at someone?” were used to determine which study method worked best but for myself, it was true. Before we were excused for break, we were also given our first assignment of the day - to make a study timetable. We spent the remainder of our time in Cheras working on our presentation, with the last lecture on Pendidikan Islam for the Muslim students ending at around 6.15pm.

The second day was filled mostly with lectures. While the idea of a day full of lectures may seem daunting to many, the teachers definitely tried to change things up to prevent us from sleeping on our desks. A true testament to this would have to be the science workshop, conducted by Encik Mohd Saad bin Yaacob, who would reward each correct answer with a loud booming “BOMBASTIC”, “FANTASTIC” and various other words with ending with an -ic. Finishing even later than the previous day, we were left with no time to spare on preparing for the presentations tomorrow, forcing us to use Skype as medium to sort out last minute details. 

Photo Credit : Puan Rahimah
To the relief of many, the last day was set to end much earlier than the previous days. That thought itself was enough to pump us up for the presentation. Every group clearly put in their all into this presentation as we saw many interesting videos, ranging from a hilarious reenactment of our literature novel How I Met Myself, to a catchy rap about the political parties we learnt in Sejarah. Needless to say, Sejarah has never been as popular, with students demanding for an encore in between laughter. After announcing the best presentations, all the students walked downstairs for the group photo session. It seemed only right for all three campuses to be in the photo - we were the last batch of PMR after all. 

Photo Credit : Puan Rahimah
It was definitely a weekend filled with valuable lessons, newfound methods and great fun. Being able to bond with our counterparts from Labuan and Cheras also made the experience all the more enjoyable. Together, we faced the evil monster also known as PMR. Whether we conquered it or not remains to be seen next Thursday when the results come out. All the best to everyone!

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Tuesday 10 December 2013

by Nur Habibah Ishak, Junior 1 Cempaka, Class of 2014

For the first time this year, Cempaka has the pleasure of hosting the Youth Encounter Expedition which was held partly in Malacca and in Cempaka International Ladies College (CILC). Although the decision to participate in the expedition was very much last minute (to be exact, it was made on the day itself), it was a fairly great decision that I would not regret. 

The first day of the five day program commenced on the 15th of November, the last day of Damansara Games Carnival. One can only imagine the tiredness I felt after a week long of sports but I was definitely pumped to meet new people and find out what was in store. I reached CILC at around 8pm whereupon I settled into my room. I also had the chance to get to know my roommate and the other participants from Philippine’s Westfield International School before we left to the poolside area for an opening ceremony, ice breaking session as well as the first tribal meeting. There were numerous introductions, there being 17 of us in total; myself from Cempaka, four from Labuan International School, one from Brazil (my roommate, Sofia!) and 11 from Westfield International School. We were then divided into groups, appropriately named - Hang Tuah, Hang Jebat, Hang Kasturi and Hang Lekir. From there, we were given a team building activity which was to think of a war cry. However, when the time came to showcase our talent, the Marshals had decided to showcase theirs with a short skit on the four famous brothers in Malaysian history. 

Day two started with breakfast, a tour of CILC, and a quick flag making session before boarding the bus to Malacca. We arrived at our hotel around noon, had some lunch and then we were briefed upon our afternoon activities. The Amazing Race Part 1 kicked off at 2pm. We set across Malacca, racing the three other groups through history ridden museums and numerous head-scratching brain teasers.  I was so glad to have some basic Malaysian history in mind. By the end of the race, we were all drenched in sweat and felt exhausted, both mentally and physically. 

After a well needed shower and a fulfilling dinner, we went on a relaxing river cruise and learnt more about the city. Afterwards, Encik Raphael surprised us with our first taste of Fear Factor. That night, we had such an enjoyable experience of  having a mudskipper - or five in Ryan’s case (nearly two for me but I caught Encik Salleh in the nick of time!) - go down our shirts as we attempt to wiggle it down and out of our pants to free them. What a way to end day two, don’t you think? Before we were dismissed, we had our tribal meeting where the marshals summed up our day, followed by the granting of Immunity for the winning team, pacifiers for the losing team and then elimination of the weakest survivors. 

Amazing Race Part 2 started at 9am the next day. A lot of us considered this day to be our favourite as it was exceptionally amusing and terribly fun. The challenges that day included trying out Malacca specialties - pulut and durian cendol anyone? Some of us (myself included) had some trouble chowing down the dish but it didn’t get any easier during lunch time where we had to finish a table full of spicy dishes; For a few of us, throwing it back out wasn’t the best experience. 

Among others, we were required to sell souvenirs to strangers (oh, how grateful I was to be able to speak Malay), run around in traditional clothing and also try to play Sepak Takraw. In short, it was all about public interaction. After a hugely eventful day, Encik Raphael took us to his favourite restaurant for a very delightful dinner. Little did we know, our dessert was coming right up. There were two challenges to our Fear Factor that night; transferring live worms from one table to another with our mouths was one - my teammate, Elyjah, was practically kissing the plate! The other one was purely psychological. The marshals brought us to an abandoned, story ridden building and fed us with spine-tingling stories before we were asked to go all the way up to find and retrieve an envelope. More people were eliminated that night during the tribal meeting. 

The fourth day was a rather nice day as we got to experience a Malaysian Village home stay. We were greeted with traditional dances and a walk through of the village. The next two hours were spent cooking festive dishes with four of the lovely elder women that cook for the village. It was quite a learning experience for everyone. 

A quick two hour nap saw us full of energy and ready for the traditional games that included coconut bowling and our favourite one, the war games! While a few of the girls went to clean up, the rest of us spent some time playing soccer with the local kids. The festive food we cooked earlier in the day was served for dinner. Afterwards, each of the teams were tasked with choreographing a traditional dance. Once all of us had our moment in the limelight, it was time for our tribal meeting where the results were announced and it was down to the last three survivors; Saiful, Ryan and I. In spirit of the occasion, we let off some sparklers. It was a lovely night for all of us, especially being able to experience a sort of mini Hari Raya before departing back to CILC.

The next day, we paid a visit to Cempaka Cheras to check out the rugby match during the Cheras Games Carnival and also to tour the school. We then left to Central Market, followed by KLCC. “It’s like the shopping version of amazing race,” as quoted by Cloie after an hour of a very speedy shopping spree. Later, we returned to CILC where it was time for each team to show of their skills on the rock climbing wall as well as cook up some mouth watering chicken rice for the Iron Chef challenge! CILC even produced two teams of their own to increase the pressure in the kitchen. 

That night was our final night together and it was rather sad saying goodbye to everyone. We said our farewells with a closing ceremony and an award presentation. Congratulations to Ryan for receiving the award for Top Survivor and Best Participant, which ended in a shocking tie with Sofia; both duly deserved!

On Wednesday, Sofia and the students of Labuan International School left early in the morning but the Westfield students had their flight in the evening. With the permission of Encik Raphael, I decided to bring them for another, proper round of shopping in the city. After breakfast, we headed for the busy streets of Bukit Bintang. It was definitely an afternoon well spent! 

That whole week was certainly an unforgettable experience which was thoroughly appreciated by every single person in attendance. Thank you a million to the organisers and marshals in making this expedition one to remember! They became our friends instead of simply the people in-charge. Even though I was the only representative from Cempaka, my doubts vanished instantly because I had the extreme pleasure of meeting some of the most amazing people. All of us connected so well with each other. The friendships and most importantly, the memories made during this expedition are and will definitely continue to be exceptionally memorable. 
by Anonymous 18:18 23 comments | in , , , ,
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Monday 9 December 2013

by Nicole Lee Poh Sim, Sophomore 2 Cempaka, Class of 2015

pro·cras·ti·nate verb \prə-ˈkras-tə-ˌnāt, prō-\
: to be slow or late about doing something that should be done : to delay doing something until a later time because you do not want to do it, because you are lazy, etcetera.

As the days slip by and we no longer find ourselves in need to to wake up early, I find that my procrastination level has never been at its highest. I really didn’t know what to write about, and as it’s the holiday season, I think it’s safe to say that my brain is half-asleep most of the time. Then it struck me. I thought to myself, “Why not write about procrastination?” Hence this very article you’re reading right now - which has been long overdue. If it hadn’t been for my friends who constantly bug me to write another article or to help me think of what to write, I would probably still be stuck at the first line. 

I would think that most of you can probably relate to procrastination, in fact, it may even be your best (or worse) friend. I’m sure there have been instances when you’ve thought to yourself, “I’ll do it in five minutes.” or “I’ve got so much time left, I’ll do it later.” This will go on for a while and you will keep telling yourself the same thing over and over again, until you’ve got less than an hour left to complete your task. Then, things start getting messy. You start panicking. You start freaking out. You do everything in a rush. And in the end, you make very little progress and may be dissatisfied with what you have done.

I consider myself to be a champion at procrastination. I can just sit for hours, literally, and do nothing but stare into empty space. Now, why do we procrastinate? I’ve thought long and hard (well, not really) about the answer to that question and have come up with an answer. This is just my opinion on it and I may not be a hundred percent right on it. There are two parts to my ‘theory’.

Firstly, most of us think we have a lot of time on our hands when we actually don’t. A good example would be us teenagers when trying to complete our everyday school homework. It doesn’t really matter when the due date is  - we normally just cram everything up and wait till the last minute (correct me if I’m wrong, but I highly doubt so) to finish our homework. Every time we're poised to pick up the pen and start on that two-page long essay, we suddenly remember that there's a can't-miss football match on tonight, or that we haven't checked Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/any other form of social media in a while. 

If we’re lucky enough, we get our homework done by midnight or maybe two in the morning or worse come to worse, on the bus the next morning. For the rest, well let’s just say it’s a matter of filling in the blank spaces with whatever answers come to our head whether right or wrong, right before the class starts. Worse comes to worst, some of us just scribble whatever nonsense that comes to our head just before the teacher comes to our desk to collect our homework. When we get into trouble for not producing ‘good quality’ work, we sort of learn our lesson. We finish our homework on time once or twice, and the bad habit of procrastination starts kicking in again. 

The second and final part to my ‘theory’ of procrastination is laziness. When laziness sets in, there will be many excuses to why a piece of work cannot be done or should not be done. It’s usually very difficult to overcome laziness unless one has very strong will power. An example of laziness is when your brain is just unable to think anymore and however hard you push your brain to work, it refuses to budge. It has a thousand and one excuses to why it can’t budge, but you know it’s just in the lazy mode. 

As I’ve said earlier, most of us procrastinate. Is it alright to procrastinate? Probably during school-days, it's not such a good idea. However now that the holidays are in full swing, why not? You've earned a break anyway, and as the procrastinator's most favourite saying goes, there's always tomorrow.
by Anonymous 13:44 49 comments | in , , ,
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Friday 6 December 2013

by Chin Wye Mun, Junior 1 Cempaka, Class of 2014

Photo Credit: Encik Khairul 

Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum. From a two day camp outside the city to conquering Mount Kinabalu; Cempaka has always found ways to challenge our minds, our bodies and our souls, particularly in their expeditions. This year, to commemorate 30 years of Cempaka, the Pearl Expedition was held on the 30th of November. 

Pearl was basically a large-scale treasure hunt starting from our Damansara campus, moving on to Cempaka International Ladies College (CILC) and ending at Cempaka Cheras. All Cempakans were encouraged to take part in the one-day expedition - teachers, parents and even ex-Cempakans! Thankfully for all those 'oldies' out there whose energy levels don't quite match a teenager's, the Pearl expedition didn't require hanging onto a rope for your dear life as you trek up a slippery slope in the foggy conditions at three in the morning. Neither did it involve having to sit all alone in the middle of a dark forest filled with insects (and ghosts?) - but it was definitely an expedition to remember. 

Participants were required to form teams of four, with one designated driver and one designated navigator. There were 30 questions in total. All of them were challenging riddles with answers that could be found in our surrounding area (shop names and signs). There were also eight tasks to do along the way and four 'treasures' to bring back. Five Road Safety questions were also included, all of which would be added to the final score of each team. 

Photo Credit: Encik Khairul 

I was relieved to find that we would be spending most of our time in the car and looking out for the answers, but not so when I found we had to be in Damansara by 7 AM (or 6 AM for the “kiasu” teams). So on that fine Saturday morning, I woke up at 5:40 AM and armed with our bright yellow Pearl polo shirts, my mother and I were raring to go. We hopped into the car and drove through the darkness to the Damansara car park to meet up with our fellow teammates, Ezzamel and Amanda.

Photo Credit: Encik Khairul 

I honestly expected more cars to be there already, knowing the competitive nature of Cempakans. To my surprise, however, we were the second car to arrive. We chatted with the team in front of us - fellow senior Brandon Koh, his teammates Niroshan and Dean, and his mother. Soon after, more cars started to arrive and lined up neatly at the car park. Before I knew it, all teams seemed to have arrived and the sun was beginning to rise. 

Photo Credit: Encik Khairul 

At around 7:15 AM, Dr. Rizal gave us our final briefing and we were also given snacks, water, our clues and directions (or tulips). A photography session was taken with everyone popping their heads out of their cars, smiles and all before Dato’ Freida flagged us off.

Photo Credit: Encik Khairul 

To be honest, the questions weren’t simple at all. Most of them required some really hard thinking. There were lots of head scratching moments and dazed gazing around at the various shop lots around us. After the first couple of questions though, we started to get the hang of solving the questions. I'm pretty sure people were staring at the multitudes of yellow polo-shirt people sticking their heads out of car windows to look at closed shop-lot signs or running around taking pictures of the most random thing. It’s hard to imagine we spent half the day driving around, solving riddles but it all passed in a flash. And I will always remember all the great Eureka moments we had - we'd point at the answer excitedly, then quickly point in another direction in case another team had seen us. 

Photo Credit: Encik Khairul 

This went on for hours, with the occasional stop to buy our treasures. Our journey went on quite smoothly with my mother controlling the steering wheel, me in passenger’s seat with the tulips in hand, Amanda in charge of food and googling at the back and Ezzamel helping answer questions. This was until we realized we were going on for a pretty long time without spotting the landmark stated on the directions. 

“Eh, we’ve been going on for quite a while.....,” I pointed out, worry starting to creep up my spine. 

“Yeah....,” my mother said, trying to hide her concern. 

“We haven’t passed any Piggies Steamboat right?” I asked.

“Nope.” everyone answered.

And at that point, we were lost. 

“Where are we?”, “Check the Google Maps la!”, “Don’t you have the directions?”, “There, the sign says Puchong what”, “I followed the tulips! Slight right then go straight right?” - Generally this was the chatter in the car right then. 

Thanks to Google Maps and GPS, we got ourselves back on track. We faced a couple other hiccups throughout the journey to CILC but everything was okay in the end and we still managed to arrive in CILC on time, where we were met with Tasks 4 to 6. 

Photo Credit: Encik Khairul 

The tasks were set to mirror annual events in Cempaka - namely, Swimming Gala, Sports Day and Games Carnival. Having a diversity of team members who can swim, run and play netball, we succeeded in all tasks quickly and were back on the road in no time. 

Photo Credit: Encik Khairul 

Forward to Cheras! The route was unfamiliar, but even worse, traffic was starting to build and we were already quite short on time, having cut it quite close upon arrival in CILC. I was worried about being penalized more than solving the questions. However, with good friends, good food and good music, the jam seemed to ease up and my worries subsided.

We solved the last few questions, sacrificing some and making guesses due to the time constraints before heading straight to Cheras. Running with bags of oil and Tiger biscuits in hand (the treasures we had to buy), we rushed to the station outside the North Hall to hand them in. Later that night, we learned that he treasures we had to buy -all in which the four houses were either incoporated into the clue or the item itself; would to be sent as part of the Haiyan Relief fund. From there, we were directed into the North Hall for our last two tasks - recreating a Cempaka Box Office Production and embodying “Nothing is impossible!” in one single photo. 

During these tasks, we saw creativity, talent, humour and the determination of Cempakans - just how far they’d go given simple instructions. It was definitely fun to see the adults let go a bit and monkey-around - literally, as the popular choice was Tarzan. Skits you should definitely see would be Puan Farah's group, where the ladies showed off their old-school dance moves as Alif (the thorn among the roses), acted as Hairspray's Corny Collins host. Also watch out for the ballet antics from numerous teams acting Belle and the ever popular Lion King scene. After showing our Nothing Is impossible photo to Dr. Rizal, we were all given collar pins to mirror the annual Commencements, thus marking the end of the Pearl Expedition 2013. 

Or not quite the end. Teams returned to Cheras later that night for the Dinner and Results Ceremony where  answers were revealed and winners announced. After we beat ourselves up at careless mistakes and missed opportunities, we settled to be glad with the fact that we were close to placing in the Top Ten. The top prize went to Team RHGP which consisted of none other than Encik Hisham, Encik Raphael and two other Cempaka alumni. There was also a slight twist, where the last team (no names mentioned!) was presented with a towel, signifying Cempaka's annual Big Splash event where the losing house's captains would be thrown into the pool.

Photo Credit: Encik Khairul 

All in all, I have no regrets whatsoever joining Pearl Expedition. And not having placed has driven my teammates and I to come back next year, better than ever. Who knew sitting in the car, racking our brains could be so tiring? I would also like to give a special mention to all the drivers for Pearl. Really, how could you all stand driving almost non-stop for 6 hours or so? Hopefully your navigator didn’t take you on a wild goose chase round and round and hopefully you had fun, no matter what the result. 

I think one of the best parts was also seeing all the teams so enthusiastic about the expedition. Twitter was buzzing with pictures and tweets from the teams. It was especially heartwarming to see families and alumni come back and participate in the hunt. I guess no matter where life takes you, you never forget your roots.
by Anonymous 22:37 31 comments | in , , , ,
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