Kuala Lumpur is different to Portsmouth. Some areas of KL make Portsmouth look pretty; the walk along the “muddy estuary” (this is what Kuala Lumpur means) makes the walk down Southsea seafront look spotless; some of the high-rise blocks on the verge of the eight-lane chaotic highway make all areas of Portsmouth look appealing! As a keen cyclist I opted to leave my wheels at home after I was advised I would be killed if I attempted to commute on it! The concrete jungle of KL is so different and crazy busy, but that is what I wanted when I decided to look for a new job in an international school.
KL has an impressive skyline. Sunset from my balcony is beautiful, and it’s equally as good from the pool at my condominium, a very different scene to the sunset on a summer evening in my back garden in Portsmouth. A cycle down for a drink in one of the pubs in Old Portsmouth with fish and chips, watching the ferries come and go; a taxi into Changkat Bukit Bintang or one of the affluent suburbs for a drink to people watch whilst eating the tastiest banana leaf curry with my right hand. Both cities, so different in their own ways.
The city comparisons are not the only ones to make. The students here are fabulous – as they were in my previous international school in Thailand. You get to teach rather than manage behaviour. You can take risks with new ideas and you know that if it doesn’t quite go to plan you won’t be picking up the pieces! There is no litter, students arrive punctually and the odd shirt hanging out is the most rebellious act of the day, most of the time! In fairness, my contribution to the dinner party conversation about students from my old school were much more entertaining!
Portsmouth will have a heat wave in April, maybe September, you never can quite predict it, but you’ll know about it as the students will not stop moaning about it in PE! Days (and evenings) are hot and humid all year round here in KL. Living in a tropical climate brings the monsoon season where the rain bounces off the ground and the thunder and lightning storms come can start in an instant and then go again just as quick! We will do PE in temperatures of 30 degrees and more, plenty of water breaks and sun screen is applied – a ritual that has been embedded since they were in primary school and they are used to t-shirts being soaked in sweat by the end of the lesson. Organisation is great, but no one refuses to borrow kit if they do forget on the odd occasion. There are no students hiding in the changing room avoiding PE (that I know of!) and effort cannot be faulted, there is an underlying competitiveness in PE – whether they are a fan of sport not – just like their academic studies, they always strive to be their best.
On the odd occasion on a winter morning on the south coast you’d be waiting for the text message to confirm whether or not the few centimetres of snow was enough to close the school for the day so you could meet up with your other teacher friends for a snowball fight! Here in KL we experience haze days. None last year but four this term so far. Here in Malaysia we are experiencing the effects of forest fires burning furiously in Sumatra, Indonesia. It looks like thick fog like in the UK in the middle of February, lights are on in Maximus (our Isuzu D-Max truck) by 5 pm and running outside has not been inviting for a while.
It’s been almost a month now, fires are still burning and the API (air pollution index) continues to fluctuate between unhealthy and hazardous once again. School is shut again tomorrow. Staff must attend but students are not expected. Haze work is uploaded to the school website and students complete it! We have used the time wisely within the short notice of a haze day. Giving staff the opportunity to collaborate in departments to plan and prepare lessons and resources, staff have gathered for meetings for us to deliver sessions on this year’s appraisal and we’ve liaised with middle leaders to deliver information regarding upcoming deadlines and support with documentation. There has also been earlier finishes to support staff well-being.
But we’re over the haze now, we like our routines and we just want to get back to normal and teach! Half term next week then hopefully we can get back into some routine and see of these nasty, unhealthy hazy days.
Even the students want to know when they can return to school as they are missing out on their work. Now that has never happened with snow days.