Saturday, 22 November 2008

Auschwitz: Revisited...




Dr. Eva Olsson, Holocaust-Survivor...



I have never heard the lecture theatre that quiet before. The silence was deafening. It was so quiet, I could hear my own heartbeat...

My university hosted a visit by a Holocaust-survivor for two days. Dr. Eva Olsson, a tiny lady, all 84-years of her, was our guest speaker. Born in Szatsmar, Hungary, Dr. Olsson started her speech by telling us that she was here to "bring awareness about hate, and the power of hate".




"I hear the word 'hate' frequently, and I don't like it. 'Hate' murdered my family; it murdered millions of innocent people, one-and-a-half-million of which were children less than 12 years of age. 5 of those children were my nieces", she said in her opening speech, as the theatre fell silent.


"When I leave here today, I will be grateful if I have touched one heart in this hall, because if I did, then 1 more child would not have died in vain", she said.

I heared sniffles all around.




Her speech lasted slightly longer than an hour. She showed us pictures of concentration camps, of the box-cars where lives were taken, the gas-chambers where her mother was led with her 5 nieces, the place where her father was killed, and the mass graves where millions were shot brutally and bulldozed.



"Those are not my pictures. They were taken by the Nazi's who documented almost everything", she said, reminding us that behind the horror, were real people.





From left: Eva Yap, Me, Dr. Eva Olsson, and Shirin...





"Not every German is a Nazi, and not every Nazi is German", Dr. Olsson told the crowd. And I must note that sitting in today's crowd were some of my German friends who were in tears.



"The worst thing to have are bystanders. Bystanders are never innocent. Not doing anything is a choice. Remaining silent is as much as condoning it", she said to the crowd, and she reminded us to never be a bystander when someone else is getting hurt.



Dr. Olsson has been speaking to schools, universities, colleges, churches, community halls and conferences for the past 12 years. She has addressed thousands of people, and received about 11 000 letters from students who have written to her thanking her for sharing her story.






Students lining up to give Dr. Olsson a hug after her speech.




"For many years, I kept quiet because I was afraid. I was in denial. I was afraid that if I spoke about it, it will happen again. BUT the grass will grow again. We must not forget the past, because otherwise, history will repeat itself. And we will never move on", she said.



"When the occupation was over, we were given a choice. To go back to where we came from, or to remain in special camps till someone came for us. I didn't want to go back; they didn't want us or the would do what Bulgaria did and protect their Jews and now allow the box-cars to leave. My sister Elona and I left for Sweden", she said, sharing that she recently returned to Germany to revisit her past and make her peace.

"I visited the Bergen-Belsen memorial site. I was touched to see so many tour buses of young people from all over Europe, who had come with their teachers. I was touched because it is these young people who can prevent the past from happening again", she said.




*Note: Dr. Olsson noted that Bulgaria and Denmark, among others, protected their Jewish people and did not allow the Nazi's to take them away. Countries like Sweden, on the other hand, 'smuggled' the Jews in and offered them protection*




Dr. Olsson's closing speech struck me: "The Nazi's stripped me of family, of human rights, of dignity. But they cannot strip me of my will to live. And the purpose of my living now is to bring awareness. As for all of you, what example would you live behind? Because the only thing worth keeping is what we have to give away, and that is our love"...



Dr. Olsson was given a standing ovation at the end of her speech, which was followed by a Q&A...

Students later, of their own accord, lined up to give her a hug. I don't think there were dry eyes in that theatre today...



PS: You may visit her at www.evaolsson.ca...



Thursday, 20 November 2008

"Let's Go Out, It's Snowing!"...



It is SNOWING...

Big time...

I don't see anymore green land...It's a blanket of white today morning. Even the trees are white...


Yesterday evening, the snow was pretty heavy, and the temperature was -10 degrees. By night-time, most of the campus had been covered in snow. It was not tooo cold, so we managed to throw snowballs at each other for a while. It was a spur of the moment thing. Tired from studying, one of my friends suddenly said, "Let's go out!".


And decked in only ONE sweater, we went out, threw a couple of snowballs and came running back in...



Pictures soon! I am going out today for my volunteer work, so I might as well take pictures...=)



Remember how I said I promise to enjoy snow when it comes officially? Well, I plan to...

If I don't psyche myself into enjoying it, I am in deep trouble. Faculty, Staff and Students (who come from around Canada) swear Peterborough has some of the worst winters ever...


So, yeap, I plan to enjoy the snow...And I will survive that -30 degrees (or more!) which this place is so famous for!!!


Saturday, 15 November 2008

Of Puppet-Shows and Missing-Teeth Smiles...



As some of you know, I've been involved with a puppet troupe here in Canada. Our 'job' involves travelling to nearby towns and communities and performing for the schools, community centres, children's libraries etc. Topics covered include health, bullying (various forms, like how to report, what bullying is, types of bullying etc), epilepsy, divorce in parents etc...



I've attended a few shows already, and last week, we travelled to an elementary school in a town about an hour away for a performance.




Y.M.C.A...



The school was a small one, and every day, the children, the teachers, staff and principal gather for DPA (Daily Physical Activity), where they exercise together. This is followed by announcements by the principal (she even reads out names of children who are celebrating their birthday for the day!), and the little ones even finish her sentences for her!


Like when she goes: "Remember to..."

They will echo: "Be kind to each other..."



Awww...


I was tickled by their DPA. They were exercising to YMCA and Macarena, and three boys (maybe about 10 years old) were leading the kids on stage.




The puppet-troupe coordinator...



We joined in. It was fun! Even the principal and teachers were all dancing away...During the more popular parts of the song (like Y.M.C.A!), the children were all singing along at the top of their lungs...



Everytime I drag myself out of bed at the crack of dawn for a performance, and see my roomie and close friend (who has been bunking with me for the past month) snoozing away happily, I always ask what I got myself into. And I always wish I could go back to sleep too, and not have to walk to the other end of the building to get my cup of coffee to perk me up.


But everytime when I'm actually at the school and see the kids all so thrilled by the puppets, and enjoying the performances, and looking at you and bursting into missing-teeth grins and giving you the thumbs-up (the coordinator introduces us (the student volunteers) and tells the kids we take time off university to perform for them), I'm happy I dragged myself out of bed...


Those missing-teeth smiles? Priceless!



Note: Sorry guys, due to the confidentiality agreement, I cannot post pictures of the puppets or name the organisation...= (


Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Remembering Chee Keong...




Chee Keong...



Sigh...



I woke up last night in the middle of the night, feeling queasy, and I could not figure out why at first...

And then I remembered why...



The day before, while out shopping for groceries, I saw a little boy who looked like he had Cerebral Palsy, and he was sitting with his head lolled to one side, in a tiny little pram that looked like it was for a doll...

He was tiny...

And his parents were chatting away happily and playing with him...



And as I walked pass him, I missed my little boy so badly...


I forgot about the boy I saw in the pram until last night, when I dreamt about him...


Sigh...

But unlike a year ago, this time, I managed to go back to sleep after a while...I miss him terribly, but this time, I managed to sleep...


I guess what they say is true: Time does heal you a little...




Thursday, 6 November 2008

Of Burnt-Out Professors and Missing Test Papers...



Phew...I have been horrible with updating this blog, haven't I?


My past few weeks have been very packed...I just finished all my midterms and a couple of heavy-duty assignments, and am anxiously waiting for my marks...


One of the assignments went horribly wrong because the computer system crashed...The result was my poor professor sitting in her office till nearly 1am (on her BIRTHDAY!) on a Friday to calm panicking students, answer emails at a rate of 60 per hour, making phone-calls to the publisher-company and trying to untie the mess.

Did I mention she was teaching a class of about 1000 students, split into 3 sections?



This same poor professor spent the entire (following) week having students bombarding her with questions on the 'chatroom' and some sounded like they were having panic attacks because they could not get their submissions in and the deadline was up, and each passing day meant a deduction of 5% (due to glitches beyond our control, the penalty was subsequently removed).

I must note she entertained everyone and from what I heard from fellow friends, apologised to each and every student (for the upset) who came knocking on her door...She even Black-Berry'ed us throughout the night...



This same professor too was visibly burnt-out by the end of the week, and when someone proposed a thank-you during lecture for her dedication, she was moved to tears...


And I was left wondering why there isn't Teacher's Day here in Canada (I wiki'ed it, but could not find a date). Professors (and my Malaysian teachers) like this deserve to be recognised, don't you think? I'll figure a way to convey my thanks, anyhow...



Meanwhile, I was in a state of shock this morning when my other professor emailed me to say they could not find my test paper. The marks for the rest of the class had been posted but my mark was obviously missing from his list.

He was very sweet though...He apologised for the stress and assured me they would find it as no paper had ever gone missing before...



Turns out, we figured out why my paper was missing. I sat for my paper in a different part of the building as I had two papers back-to-back which caused some clashes, so they isolated me. Between that and the TA's (Teaching Assistant) office, something went kooky...


But all's well that ends well...The TA and Prof were sending me frequent updates about what was going on (who they checked with, who verified what etc), and by mid-afternoon, I had gotten my marks...So Daphne's happy once again!



I also finally got approved to volunteer at the hospital, the Puppet-troupe, and got my interview with Kinark Child and Family Services down pat, too...So that's another stress out of the way...


Now to tackle that assignment of finishing 10 annotated-bibliographies, 1 abstract, 1 essay and 1 final thought-paper...



Now if anyone thinks I'm drowning and deadly behind schedule, well, I'm not! Right on target and on time, according to my calendar of deadlines...;)

And now Daphne needs to go to bed...Puppet show tomorrow!