In case you missed it, here’s a brief overview about the aforementioned program: [link]
THIS POST IS A DETAILED RECOUNTING OF DEFINITELY THE MOST AWESOMESAUCE FIVE-DAY FOUR-NIGHT HOLIDAY WORKSHOP EVER!!!
Oh yeah, Tun Dr Mahathir was there some of the time with us too.
So read on for the first day of my exciting time with the program!
Day 1 – Friday, 26 March 2010
The contingent from Universiti Teknologi PETRONAS departed from our campus about 9.30am to Awana Hotel, Genting Highlands. Five of us – Bakri, Hazwan, Yusuf, Kumar and myself – bundled our luggage into the UTP van to which we were assigned and took off.
There was one more of us – Wen Zhen – who was not with us because he had already arrived at Awana the day before as part of his preparations for a performance for Tun Dr Mahathir himself.
We arrived slightly after noon at Awana due to some confusion in the expected venue to which we were supposed to depart. Dr Fazley Yaakob was there to greet us warmly as we got off the van.
Upon depositing our luggage (and ourselves) outside one of the hotel’s many meeting rooms, we found out that we were the first to arrive!
Thankfully Dr Fazley was kind enough to treat us to a buffet lunch at the time! Actually we had arrived way ahead of schedule than the other participants, most of whom just departed from the Jabatan Hal-Ehwal Khas (JASA) offices in KL about the same time we reached Genting.
Some time after Friday prayers the other participants arrived. Since the committee came with them as well, we finally got to check in to our respective rooms. My roommate in Awana was Balaganesh from Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris.
Some of the free stuff we got for checking in: a gigantic name tag, a new backpack with the program name stitched on, a tracksuit and matching jacket, some stationery, and an awesome black jacket emblazoned with the JASA and Awana logos!
Later about 4.00pm, all of the participants gathered at Dewan Wawasan hall for an ice-breaking session. After we got that out of the way, we were greeted by the main panellists – Tuan Sayid, Ustaz Adenan, Mr. Periasamy – and our host, none other than Dr. Fazley himself.
Challenge No. 1
We got a quick rundown of the situation courtesy of Tuan Sayid. I thought him to be aloof and distant, just another government bureaucrat.
He explained that over the course of the program, we would be evaluated from every aspect: our interactions with one another, the kind of questions we ask during forums and dialog sessions, our punctuality and self-presentation. First off, we had to undergo – surprise, surprise – a test!
Twenty multiple-choice questions on Malaysian history, ten general knowledge questions. For half an hour we stumped ourselves silly on finding the right answers – always keeping in mind Dr. Fazley’s advice.
“Even if you don’t know how to answer it, write something down. I don’t want to see any blank spaces left behind!”
Among the general knowledge questions they asked (correct answers are linked to Wikipedia), and the hilarious but wrong answers (typed in red) Dr. Fazley shared with us that were written by some of the participants:
- What is a dodo? Short form for ‘kuih dodol’.
- Describe briefly what you know about Petra, one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. I think Petra is referring to Putrajaya, our nation’s capital.
- What is the name of the painting by Leonardo da Vinci of a man in a circle with eight limbs? Mona Lisa.
Seriously, such funny answers! I think they were written more out of frustration than of actual ignorance, especially considering Dr. Fazley’s advice!
After the test ended, we had time for dinner and getting to know one another. As we had time before the next session, I got to know a few of the other participants, one of whom was Lylia Aimi a.k.a. Amy.
Funnily enough, when our conversation came to the subject of age and Amy discovered my birthday on March 25 – being only the day before! – she got all excited and called everyone’s attention.
Next thing I knew, everyone in the hall was singing me Happy Birthday and I barely knew anyone yet! Definitely one of the coolest birthday presents I’ve ever had, belatedness notwithstanding.
After a short video documentary on Tun Dr. Mahathir, we went straight to our next session with Prof. Madya Dr. Siva Murugan. An academician from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, he was apparently one of the panelists responsible for drafting up the 1Malaysia concept.
The topic of the dialog session was regarding the past, present and (potential) future of interracial relations in Malaysia. He talked about his opinion just briefly before they opened the floor to question-and-answer.
And whoa boy.. did we question him! With the level of maturity of questioning that was going on in that hall.. I’d never felt so intellectually stimulated!
We tackled a lot of issues that night, like racial politics and education’s role in promoting unity. At that point I instantly knew this was the kind of crowd I could click with – that this was going to be a long, fun and definitely exhausting five days!
So somehow almost all the UTP students got drafted into helping Wen Zhen with his taekwondo performance. Aside from arranging the props, we’d be holding the boards/confetti-filled paper plates he would break with his moves!
So exciting to be the one in the direct path of a bone-shattering blow, no?
After a brief explanation and run-through by Wen Zhen, we all retired to our rooms, grateful for the cozy comfort of a luxurious hotel bed, falling asleep upon extra-fluffy pillows.