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    Life

    Happy New Year!

    After a solid two weeks Christmas break, I am back! And what a holiday it was! It is always nice to have family to spend time with. This time around we had a big group visiting us all the way from Singapore. Nurul’s parents, her youngest sister Naaj, cousin Hanis, and also my brother Fir, and his wife Nadiah, came to visit us. I still can’t believe that everyone was able to squeeze into our tiny one bedroom apartment! We also travelled around Europe together.

    But as all teachers will tell you, holidays are never long enough and I feel like I need a holiday after my vacation! 😆 Heading back to school felt zombie-like for me and Nur as we tried to get our old rhythm back into motion. I guess we were feeling a little exhausted from the New Year’s Eve countdown and fireworks display which we took part in London. And for the first time, we did not have time to clean our apartment before we left Frankfurt. It wasn’t possible as our last guest – Hanis, left Frankfurt the first day back to work.

    Heading back to work was tough this time around. The sun rising later certainly did not help at all! When we reached our work place = my current school, it was still kinda dark and it was already past 8am! My students too were still on holiday mood. It was pretty obvious as they drugdged along the school corridor and into their classrooms. However, it was nice hearing their stories and what they did during their Christmas break. I certainly envied them as they speak of Paris, Bali, Dubai, and Maldives. One student even remarked how beautiful our Singapore Airlines (SIA) stewardess were. He travelled first class to New York City on SIA. Meanwhile, my more “studious” students admitted that they spent their timing completing their International Baccalaureate (IB) Internal Assessment (IA) reports.

    To motivate my students on their first week back at school, I drummed up my playlist of motivational speeches. I had to reboot my students to rev their studying engines for 2017. But some of them started tearing up as they realised that this will be their last six months in school. My 12th graders are no longer kids and they will soon fend for themselves in the real world as they try to attain a Bachelor’s degree. The same batch of students who will be doing their IB exams were also surprised when I shared a news article from Singapore’s Today free paper that Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) in Singapore, a government school nonetheless, had 48 students with a perfect IB points of 45. They weren’t able to believe that half of the global top students who sat for the IB exams came from just one school. As a teacher, I was certainly impressed and I certainly would love to teach at ACS (I) Singapore just to learn what tricks they have in their sleeves. Maybe a plan for the future. 😉 InsyaAllah.

    Meanwhile, HAPPY NEW YEAR 2017!

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    Life

    A Teacher’s Tale

    I guess it is about time to start chronicling my adventures as an international teacher. But today is the last day of school before the Christmas break. I guess it could be due to the joyous occasion that sparked me to share in the festive mood.

    What can you expect with a beautiful Christmas tree in the hall, everyones dressed as Elves and kids are caroling down the halls. One would think that you were in a series sitcom.

    You would think that everyone would be enjoying the day. However there I was rushing to squeeze every effort to write testimonials for students. It is harder when the students are applying for stellar schools like Cambridge and Berkeley. And yet easy as the individuals were indeed amazing characters that deserve a place.

    It didn’t help that students were also rushing to review their individual assessment (IA) drafts. Though it is something that I wished we had for our A levels in Singapore. The chance to explore a topic of your choosing. I have many interesting IAs ranging from ramen noodles to snails and photovoltaic cells. Doing IB certainly enable students to express their passions thus allowing a deeper appreciation for a subject. Although there still were some who had no clue where to start. I guess that’s what the role of a teacher is. To facilitate and guide students to the illuminating knowledge.

    Leaving in darkness at wintry 4pm, I can’t help but smile by how fast time flies. I used to dread December as it meant my holidays were ending. Now, I am about to explore Europe with my family from Singapore and it will end with the New Year’s Eve (NYE) fireworks display in London.

    I am also leaving with three different Christmas gifts given by my students. Life is wonderful. Alhamdulillah.

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    Travel

    Hello, Holland!

    albukharidcruz_adholland16_01

    Ok, this time around I am going to try something different. I shall let the pictures speak for themselves and summarise my entire Holland trip in one blog post.

    Bismillah.

    If you have been following us, you’d already know that currently we are living in Frankfurt, and this means travelling around Europe is much easier when you are based in Europe.

    Last month, during our Autumn break, we headed out to Amsterdam together with our good friend, Clara, who came to visit us all the way from Singapore. We began our journey boarding the ICE train from Frankfurt Hauptbanhof to Amsterdam Centraal. A four hour train ride that’s not really that long in my honest opinion. Besides, there’s a bistro on board the train if you are feeling a little peckish during your travel. But, I’d suggest packing your own drinks and snacks. The bordbistro can be quite expensive!

    Amsterdam the city is a little confusing. Maybe cause we thought that Amsterdam is big and our Airbnb booking claimed that it was within the city. But in reality, Amsterdam is actually quite small and our Airbnb booking was completely outside of Amsterdam, in Haarlem! Haarlem is about 20 minutes by train from Amsterdam Centraal itself, and we only found out that it is not a part of Amsterdam when we asked how to get to Haarlem at the train station.

    Transport in Holland is also really expensive. No wonder everyone has a bicycle! Despite staying 20 minutes out of Amsterdam and taking the expensive train every single day into the city, we had a blast!

    Holland in essence is a gorgeous city. Everywhere you go is picture perfect!

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    Life

    Coaching the Girls Varsity Football

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    Once again I had to leave Nurul all alone in cold Frankfurt over the weekend. Honestly, I didn’t know that I would be sent all around Europe when I became a teacher with ISF International School Frankfurt Rhein-Main. I wish I could have brought my wife along as it tends to get lonely and I always want Nurul to be by my side to share all these moments with me. But sadly, she had to work.

    This time around, I was sent to bring a group of passionate boisterous teenage girls to the Eastern German city called Leipzig. Leipzig is a beautiful city with historical buildings, a spanking new Hauptbanhof (their main train station), and it is also the place where the devil and Dr Faust visited in Goethe’s Faust. But when you enter the suburbs, you can see the remnants of the old Communist East German with abandoned buildings and broken windows.

    Anyway, I was down for the German International Schools’ Sports Tournament (GISST) 2016 with my Varsity Football Girls. I am their coach you see! And we have been preparing for this tournament every Monday and Friday evenings in the cold! Seriously, I did not know what to expect as it was my first time and never had the opportunity to scout the opposing teams. But in the end, I am proud of my girls and even though we did not win, my team did pretty well.

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    Thoughts

    Am I doing enough as a Muslim?

    bismillahirrahmanirrahim

    In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

    This is going to be my first faith-related post and I hope I can express in words my feelings. InsyaAllah.

    On my way home from work today, I was accompanied by a colleague from Spain. We were talking about our daily lives and what we were doing before we came to Frankfurt when he expressed his interest in learning about Islam.

    He told me that he became interested in Islam when he visited Morocco. He fell in love with the people, culture, and religion. He also shared with me that he took a Qur’an that was given out along Zeil (a shopping district in Frankfurt). My immediate thoughts were, first, Morocco isn’t the best example of a Muslim nation nor are its people, and secondly, I hoped that the Qur’an he took while at Zeil wasn’t from the Ahmadiyya sect.

    Now that I am sitting at home, having completed my Isya’ prayers, I am able to reflect on my thoughts and feelings. Who I am to judge our fellow Muslims – especially the Moroccans. Yes, they may not be the best Muslim but I am far from it either. In fact, I don’t think I am living up to my name, Nurulhuda – the guiding light.

    Islam is supposed to be easy and yet we make it difficult. As Muslims we are supposed to be proud of our religion, yet we practise it only behind closed doors.

    Coming from Singapore, we are taught to be mindful of practising our religion. Hoping to not offend other people and accommodate to their needs. But seriously, what is wrong in requesting Halal meat for a staff party? To keep a beard or wear a headscarf at work? Asking for prayer breaks? Letting the Azan (call to prayers) be heard by others? A friend from UK commented that if a call to prayers can’t be heard, what is the use of it then? In the international school here, people of other faiths admire and even state there is no harm in expressing one’s faith.

    But still I will sneak out of my office for my prayers when it is time to perform solat Zuhr and Asr’. Other times it is on the pretext of having lunch – and during those times, I am usually fasting. I guess coming from a non-Muslim nation and currently living in one, it made me the person that I am.

    The only time I  felt that I could do my solat leisurely and openly was when I worked at Berita Harian (BH) in Singapore. Almost all of us, – there was a Chinese Malaysian working at BH during the time I was there, – in that newsroom are Muslims, cause by default, most Malays in Singapore are Muslims. So it was easy and less awkward for me to perform my duties. But it isn’t the same when I am out of a Muslim environment.

    Here in Frankfurt, whenever I do my prayers, my mind is half hoping that no one opens the door. And I try to finish my prayers in under 10 minutes so that my boss doesn’t notice that I am away from my desk.

    Muslims from Islamic nations have it easy. They can just stop whatever they are doing when it is time for prayers and perform their obligatory solat. I seriously envy them. And as Muslims, we all should be doing just that but we aren’t. I guess this is one of our challenges in this world. Learning how to prioritise between our duty with Allah and work. And most of us have it wrong. I, myself included.

    I guess it is about time that we shouldn’t be shy of our religion. I am already wearing my faith on my head. Why not be proud of it as well, and start practising openly? InsyaAllah by watching us pray openly in the public, someone passing-by might be interested to know more about Islam.

    We have to overcome our awkwardness and insecurities. Slowly but surely we can be better ambassadors for Islam. We also have to be prepared to answer tough questions like – do I have to convert if I want to marry a Muslim woman? Errrr… tough question brought up by my Spanish colleague. How does one answer that question without putting him off? All I could muster was:

    “There is no compulsion in religion.”Â Ù„Ű§ÙŽ Ű„ÙÙƒÙ’Ű±ÙŽŰ§Ù‡ÙŽ فِي Ű§Ù„ŰŻÙÙ‘ÙŠÙ†Ù – [Al-Baqarah 2:256]

    And proceeded to tell him that whatever it is, he should learn more about the religion first before making any decision. Honestly, I was too afraid of telling him that a Muslim woman can’t marry a non-Muslim man. May Allah guide him to the correct path and this question will not be an issue anymore. 🙂

    For now, I am looking forward to giving him my Qur’an with English tafseer. InsyaAllah.

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