At the KL International Airport, we were welcomed by Rex Sharman. He brought us to the hostel at Sunway College. The hostel was new, and we were given an apartment on the top floor. I could walk to work in five minutes. I went to class practically the following day. I was teaching economics again. Our daughter was just learning how to crawl.
At first, I felt tired. I would fall asleep when I arrived home. Even on the weekend, I remember waking up, having breakfast, and then falling asleep again. I think it was the stress during the time in Vancouver before that. After a few weeks, I began to feel better again. Life became more stable.
I taught economics again, as usual. Later I was asked to teach history, world issues, and foundation mathematics. I always said “yes” to any suggestion to teach any subject, as I was interested in almost everything.
There were two semesters a year, and the teachers taught three subjects each. The classes were one hour and ten minutes long. A few teachers voluntarily took a fourth class, for extra remuneration. My partner in teaching economics was Linda.
The facilities were reasonable. There was a large cafeteria and a track field. There were about six hundred students in the program, with a few foreigners from Indonesia, China or a Middle Eastern nation. We had a sprinkling of students from Africa. There were extra-curricular activities.
A local lecturer – a math teacher – and I supervised the Chess Club. We also had events from time to time, mostly organized by students. An example was the regular drama night. Students would stage a play and perform in front of an audience.
Staff and students
It was pretty standard stuff. Students seemed happy. The teachers were also reasonably content. We had a mix of teachers. Some were retired, and others just fresh out of Teachers’ College. I met many interesting people there. Some stayed only a year while a few stayed for several years. I must have been one of the longest serving teachers.
One of the more colorful staff members was Wally Zeisig. She taught chemistry. She was quite outspoken. She told me about a friend of hers who invested in a fund and lost thirty per cent when he withdrew his investment. She also lived at Sunway Court. We were neighbors of sorts.
Another interesting person was Dette Hunter. I think she taught family studies. She was also a writer. A cookbook she wrote sold forty thousand copies at the Frankfurt Book Fair. And it only used comb-binding, although there was a hard cover to it. The book was so successful she was asked to write an updated second edition. When I told her about my book, she was quite supportive. She said it was important to know who your readers are.
Another interesting character was Miriam, Rex’s wife. We would at times clash in staff meetings. For example, when I told my students to begin their independent research by formulating a “research question,” Miriam got wind of it and brought it up in a staff meeting.
“This is not the right way to begin research,” she said. “The students need to begin with a thesis,” she added. I begged to disagree.
Rex, her husband, usually sided with me. In this case, he appointed the English teacher, Dorothy McKeigan, to settle the dispute between us. Dorothy also came down squarely on my side.
“I did research about how to do research, and there seems to be agreement that starting research by formulating a research question is a good idea,” she stated in the next staff meeting.
“The thesis statement will be a short answer to the research question. So, the two mutually reinforce each other,” Dorothy added. I looked over at Miriam, and she looked thoroughly defeated. I think she meant well, but perhaps she was a bit too conventional in her habits.
My health was generally fine, except I remember that getting up in the mornings was a struggle as I felt stiff. I remembered the motto in the Montfort Boys’ Town, where orphaned children were cared for by Henry, the last survivor of a French missionary order.
I met Henry personally earlier, when I visited the Town on a school trip on the advice of Stan Macfarlane, while I was with Taylor’sCollege. The motto said, “I must, I can.” It was probably to encourage the children to be strong. So, I also encouraged myself with the words, “I must, I can.” It worked.
One year the haze was particularly bad.
“It looks like snowing in Canada,” said John once when a few of us were staring at the haze in front of the College.
“Yeah,” someone chipped in, “except it’s probably quite unhealthy,” the person added.
Apparently, open burning was common in Indonesia, and if the winds blew from Indonesia, Malaysia would get a significant amount of the haze. Visibility was reduced and it could be a health hazard.
I bought a motorcycle and used to ride to work on it. It was a Honda EX5, a popular four-stroke machine, and economical. We did not have a car but would take taxis to do our shopping and so on. It took me about five minutes to get to work from Sunway Court, where we lived in a two-bedroom apartment.
For vacations or semester breaks we would go to Samui. Markus was still running his resort. Each time I visited I would catch up on what was new. Usually it was this person died or that person died. Someone told me that people talk about who is still left alive among their friends.
His nine-year lease would soon expire. The landlord wanted to double the rent to renew his lease.
“I cannot make any profit if I have to pay twice as much rent as in the past,” Markus told me. Instead, he was going to start a bar in Lamai.
I met a few of his friends. There was Berndt, from Germany, an old friend of Markus. Berndt rented a beautiful Thai house not far from Cozy and lived there with his French girlfriend.
Another friend was Wolfgang. He was a technician and worked in Indonesia for a few years. He then kind of retired in Samui. He would stay on Lamai until late and usually drive home on his motorbike.
He used to ride fast. When we were on the way to Canada again in 1998, I heard that he died in a motorcycle accident, not far from where we stayed, the Elephant Bungalows. Apparently, he rode fast and fell from the motorbike as he rode through an elevation on the bridge.
However, I noticed that as time went by, I was getting uptight again. I would watch movies in the evening to relieve stress. I was becoming more and more irritable, as time went by.
I think the reason for this was that I was no longer growing, as my work required me to repeat the same lessons over and over again, like a machine. This is not the right way to live. A person needs to grow in knowledge. I think I was going backwards in a few ways.
During one evening, Zara asked me to turn down the volume on the movie I was watching. I became upset. It has been five years since we have existed like this. I thought that if we do not change, the marriage will fall apart. I thought it was best to return to Canada and finish my book. The next day I handed in my resignation.
John accepted it. I felt as if I was compelled by the force of circumstance. The landlord bought the furniture we had, along with the motorcycle. A week or two later we were in Canada. As we were leaving the compound, I looked back with melancholy at the apartment where we lived for five years.
We stopped in Samui for a couple of weeks and I finished the book there. Once, while working on the desktop, the fan above me suddenly started to rotate faster and faster. I then saw smoke coming out of the back of the computer.
We were experiencing a power surge, not uncommon on Samui. The power box on the computer burned out, and I had to find a replacement. Luckily, it wasn’t too difficult. Once the power box was replaced, I resumed my work.
I finished the book on Samui. In Canada, all I had to do was to find a publisher. Then we proceeded to Canada.