1990 was a significant year in my family’s history. 26th June 1990 marked the day my husband and I moved our family to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. My husband got a job in Kota Kinabalu that we felt would promise us better future. Though I was skeptical at first, fearing the worst since there were a lot of unknowns in the world of Borneo and the fact that it was only accessible via air travel, I decided to do the right thing and support my husband.
We uprooted our family - Andi, then 8 , Jaffri 7, Afzal 6 and Aiysha 11 months (Atiqah was born in KK, in 1994) and moved to Kota Kinabalu, which became our home until today. Looking back, I felt that was the best decision we made for the family. Sabah, generally and Kota Kinabalu specifically lacked the hustle, developments and varieties offered by our previous home, KL (in 1990 that is – come to KK now and it’s so alive!). But nevertheless, it provided something more important- peace and the ideal surroundings to bring up a young family like ours.
We got to send all our children to school ourselves and pick them up later. We knew who their teachers, friends and friends’ families were. KK boasted of only 2 big shopping complexes then, and one of them only opened in July 1990. Thus, we knew where and with whom our children hung out. If we did not find out on our own, our friends or neighbours would inevitably relay the news to us.....These are familiar conversations we heard all the time “I saw Andi in Centre Point yesterday, with so and so”.... “what was Jaffri doing in Karamunsing last week at 8pm?”....”Afzal went bowling with my son last weekend”. And of course many times our children hang out with us (some children would be embarrassed to be found going around with their parents – not cool!).
Bringing up children is a challenge to be reckoned with. Doing it away from the hustle and bustle of the city is indeed very helpful.
I admit it was not easy trying to juggle between attending to my work and having to manage my children’s school time-table. It was especially challenging because my husband’s work involved a lot of out-station stints. But indeed Allah’s plans are beautiful and only He knows what is best. Those trying times of having to ferry my children to and from school or other places gave me the opportunity to lecture them on values and challenges in life. After listening to my lectures for the whole of their “school-going-days”, I’m sure some must have stuck in their head and remained till today. In a way, they grew up with my words guiding them.
There were times when my husband and I wondered if the decision to bring our children to Sabah was right, because by doing so we have deprived them of so many opportunities and choices that were easily available in KL. Every year we only got to bring back our family for Eid celebration (those days airfare per person was about RM800, so to bring everyone back would cost me - RM800 x 7 = RM5,600). But luckily, the Government pays for one trip every 2 years and since my husband was also a Government servant, we both enjoyed that privilege, so we all get to go back every year.
Each time we were in KL, my children would go wild with excitement over the simplest of development. They would marvel at ordinary things like sky-scrapers, double-decker buses, fast food outlets and chain stores. That made me felt so guilty and sad. To make up for the deprivation, each time I go to KL for work, I often brought home stuffs considered weird by some....McDonald burgers (before McD opened in KK) A & W waffles (things my children loves to eat), longan (longan in KK cost RM8 –RM12 a kg!), pajamas bought from Reject shop (they used to be dirt cheap but nice!) and the list goes on....
The close age-gap made them the best of friends.
AFZAL AND KK
Afzal loved food. From small, he had a sweet tooth too. He refused to bring plain water to school, so I had to make sure I’m well stocked with cordials. His favourite is orange juice (well, cordial juice). Papa would never fail to bring home Sunkist orange cordial every time he had work in KL (It’s only RM9.90 in KL, but cost RM14 in KK). He would put them in his brief case (5 bottles fits nicely in the brief case!) and hand carry it. When I ran out of cordials, I would make “air sirap”(home made, red-coloured cordial). I remember, when we came back from the U.S back in 1987, and Afzal was about 2 years old then, he did not like this red coloured cordial drink. He called it “yucky water”. He was so used to milk and orange juice in the U.S, so he could not accept a red coloured juice! I used to have a lot of problem when I brought him to weddings where they served nothing but “air sirap”. But surprisingly, he loved nasi minyak and curry or “rendang” eventhough they were spicy. Since he did not like “air sirap”, he would only drink water when we reached home.
Just as he loved food, he also loved reading. He reads all the time (well, when he was not playing football that is! That’s another great love of his). He liked to read while having his food even – a habit I tried to stop, but failed. Everytime he ate, he would grab whatever reading material available, be it books, newspapers, magazines, even flyers or cereal boxes!
Because I had 3 growing, school-going boys, I get very concerned if they did not get enough to eat at school. The solution – packed food everyday for school for everyone. When my children were in primary school, I pack them heavy food like nasi lemak, fried noodles and nuggets. But as they grew up and while in secondary school, they preferred lighter and less messy food, so I opted for sandwiches or other finger food like curry puffs and "pau". They all brought packed food to school from home everyday until they were in form five (I must say I’m so proud of them because they did not feel embarrassed eating packed food even in high school!).
Well, since I had to wake up early to prepare the nasi lemak anyway, so, why not prepare more.
Partners in crime, and always looking out for each other.
AFZAL AND MAYONNAISE
As a working mother, I was always on the lookout for quick ways to prepare good tasting and if possible, healthy foods for my children. As a precaution, I made sure that there was always bread, mayonnaise and sandwich fillings like cheese, tuna, eggs and sardines in the house. With these ingredients I could easily whip up sandwiches which were a hit with my children....or so I thought. Little did I know that Afzal did not like mayonnaise and I put them in all my tuna and egg sandwiches! He never let on about it because he did not have the heart to do so. He just took the sandwiches to school everytime I prepared them. His two brothers knew but never spilled the beans either. I only found out about it during out family chats years later, when he was already studying in Sheffield. When I asked him why he did not tell me, he said “..kesian mama dah susah2 prepare”("I pity mama already took the trouble to prepare them"). And when I asked him what he ate in school then? His answer was “..saya makan keropok je!”("I just ate some chips").
Being busy working mothers are no excuse to not attend to our children’s needs be it at school or at home. If there’s a will, there’s always a way.
Two pairs of brothers winning a bowling tournament in 2000 - Mas Jaffri/Mas Afzal Masarudin & Shahreen/Shahfie Tahir.
Afzal received the "Tokoh Pelajar" (Best Student) award of SM La Salle, KK in 2001-here with Andi and teacher Juliana.
.........to be continued