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    My Teacher: Ustaz Zhulkeflee bin Haji Ismail


    I still remember when I first heard of Ustaz Zhulkeflee bin Haji Ismail. I was still a young 22 year old NTU undergraduate and was having a dinner and teh-tarik session with my group of friends at Jalan Masjid when I chanced upon my senior from NTU. I knew he lived at the West Side of Singapore thus I was shocked to see him around Jalan Masjid. ‘What are you doing in my neighbourhood bro? Hilang ker ni? Hehe.’ I remarked. My senior smiled and replied he was going for a class at Masjid Kassim done by an Ustaz Zhulkeflee. He even dragged me by my shoulder and asked me to come along so I asked him what the class was about? He said it was a Fardhu Ain class done in English and it actually challenges you to think about Islam. That truly intrigued me. An Ustaz that encourages you to be critical about Islam! It was especially new for religious studies back in the 2000’s. Unfortunately, I had to excuse myself. Looking back, I guess Allah was calling for me but I was not ready to receive such wisdom.

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    Frankfurt Food Haunt: Guter Bulle

    I have always been a burger fan. Not the McDonald’s ones but rather fresh minced meat sauteed with herbs and spices. The good wholesome burger that is nutritious and vital for life.

    Honestly, my love for gourmet burgers sparked while living in Marrakech. Nurul and I chanced upon a tiny shop called KechBurger (can’t believe I didn’t blog about it!) The faire of New York was infused into the shop and my weekly weekend burger meals rejuvenated me for the next working week.

    I missed having those kind of burgers. And living in Frankfurt means our Halal options are pretty limited. Nurul has been making homemade burgers but I do not want to impose a weekly need on her.


    So when we found out about Guter Bulle, we became ecstatic. Cause after awhile, kebabs just doesn’t cut it. Nur and I were on our way back from gym (yes, we are gym-people now) when we saw a newly-opened burger joint. The place was packed and there were a few hijab-wearing women dining there as well. We have seen Guter Bulle ads on Facebook but have always assumed it to be non-Halal.

    Nur contacted Guter Bulle on Facebook and asked if they served Halal meat and if their food are Halal. The people of Guter Bulle were pretty fast with their reply. And their reply were simple – ist alles Halal.

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    Surviving subzero temperatures

    What a cold week last week had been! It still is! Just this morning the weather was -12 degrees when Nur and I left for work. Just when you thought you could take it, Frankfurt weather springs another cold blizzard. How I yearn for temperatures to be above zero and not below.


    the weather for the next couple of days

    But honestly, I think we are better prepared now. Nur and I have our merino beanies, down jackets, thinsulate gloves, wool sweaters, and our trusted Uniqlo extra warm heat tech tights. Not to mention, all the blocktech clothing from Uniqlo too! They have been a GOD send in this subzero weather.

    I wish it had been snowing though. When it snows, the weather is much warmer (yes warmer!) and everything looks so beautiful. There is something about snow that makes one happy. Not that the weather isn’t beautiful right now. The sky is clear and the sun is shining. But do not be deceived! Clear skies meant minus weather temperature.

    Meanwhile school has been good so far. Hopefully the students were well prepared for their periodic exam earlier today. We are into week seven of term two and soon it will be the winter break! Term two is going way faster than term one. My students have finally submitted their extended essays (EE) – which means more marking for me! Though I think some of them looked pretty professional. You’d think it was done by Masters students doing their thesis. I am impressed! Certainly doing IB prepares students for University life.

    I hope my students continue with their good work and will impress me with their IA submissions. And before you know it, they will be sitting for the big IB exams!

    Now back to marking more scripts and setting exams!




    Happy New Year 2017!

    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!




    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.