Tuesday, September 16, 2008


On this day, there is a furore among Malaysians that we will be getting a brand new Prime Minister.
Whether or not that will materialise, I do not give a damn about it. After all, I am quite sure that most of us Malaysians are already bored with the circus show being put up by the donkeys up there. Anyway, today is September 16th, and forty-five years ago, Malaya, North Borneo, Sarawak, and Singapore joined together to form a new nation we called Malaysia. Speaking about Malaysia and her independence, there was a Merdeka Day Essay Writing Competition, organized by the Malaysian Students' Association in Japan (MSAJ) and supported by the Embassy of Malaysia in Japan recently.
I was contemplating on whether I should join this competition. I know my own capabilities. I do not poses good writing skills; that is imminent in the writings in my blog. Although they allow our essay to be written in either Bahasa Malaysia or English, I know I will not be able to come out with a good piece regardless or the two language. It has been several years since I last an essay in Bahasa Malaysia; my karangan during my SPM Kertas 1 must be the last one I guess. As for English, I have been having problems with my grammar and tenses ever since I was in my primary school. Someone who is a non-reader like me just doesn't help either.
It was more than ten times I was thinking and considering, whether to try my luck or not in this essay competition. My final decision was to join and see how I would fare. I wrote my first piece in Bahasa Malaysia, but after a few paragraphs, I felt it was written out-of the topic and I put a stop to that and I came out with a new essay in English. From what I heard from some insider, there were not many people who submitted their entries and the probability of me winning a prize from what was on offer is definitely there. However, towards the closing date, or should I say closing hours of the competition which is on August 31st, there was a sudden surge of entries being sent in. We Malaysians just love doing things in the last-minute, don't we?
The theme was:
Malaysians in Japan and the challenges of globalization / Anak Malaysia di Jepun menghadapi cabaran globalisasi.
The idea of sending young Malaysians to further their studies to Japan was a brainchild of our former Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, under the Look East Policy. This policy is designed to emulate the ways of the developed countries in the East such as Japan, and South Korea. He considered that the secret of the Japanese success and its remarkable development lies in its labor ethics, morale, and management capability. The Look East Policy was a framework for learning from successful Japanese and South Koreans, and adapting some of the applicable values into Malaysian needs. The main objective of this policy is to increase the quality of management among the workers as well as creating a community with good value and positive working ethics with the aim of accelerating Malaysia's development. However, after more than 25 years since this policy was introduced, there remains one question.
How successful has this policy been?
Just like what stated in the objective of the policy, I personally feel that it has some impact on the students who were sent here, based from my own experience studying in Japan. Despite the fact that I have studied in the country for less than two years, there are a lot on things which sometimes left me pondering - how I wish I could see something like this, back in my beloved homeland.
I do not have to look far for a complex and complicated example, because I feel that simplicity is the best way to demonstrate what I am trying to imply here. Every time I attend any public function in Japan, the Japanese will make sure they leave the place spotless, exactly like how the condition of the place was before they utilise it. I was at the fireworks festival in my place recently, and after the event ended, the public did not leave immediately. Instead they will clean up the place and make sure no rubbish are left scattered around the place. On the contrary, take the Merdeka celebration at Dataran Merdeka as an example and try to imagine how the condition will be like the next morning. The local city council will have a huge headache, no doubt about that.
When we see the Japanese do such action, surely we would not want to be given an indifferent look by them by ignoring about the rubbish. We will make sure that we clean our spot as well, just like everybody else. However, when we are back to Malaysia, how many of us will do the same thing? Perhaps not everybody will do exactly like what they used to do in Japan, but I am sure that there are a certain number of them who will put those good habits into action here. That is surely a good thing that will benefit our nation. I hope that more of us will keep up the habit to pass it on to the rest of our friends and family back in Malaysia.
The human brain is rather complex and reacts in a certain manner, somewhat like the chain-reaction. When a person sees another person cleaning up the spot after an event, more often or not, they will follow suit. For once, the kiasu mentality can be practiced in a positive way. Conversely, when they see the rest of them who just cannot be bothered to keep the place clean, this thought would come into their mind, "If others just leave the place like that, why should I take all the trouble to clean my spot?"
Talking about rubbish reminds me of how easy our lives had been in Malaysia, for we are not required to separate the rubbish into a few types - for example flammable and non-flammable. Initially, when I first came to Japan, I find it troublesome and there have been times when I just throw the rubbish without separating them. However, after a couple of years in Japan I got used to that system. It affects me especially when I am back in Malaysia, more often than not. I will think for a few seconds before deciding, "Where should I throw this rubbish?" In my honest opinion, it will be hard for us to implement such system here, because we Malaysians are not determined enough to change our lifestyle. Complacency is a bad thing for us I suppose as we are so used to our old system at home.
However, one thing that is almost impossible for it to be implemented here will be the level of customer service. I have rarely come across a good service in Malaysia, that includes a smile from the cashier. In Japan, they serve their customers politely, with a smile and most importantly, they make the customers feel that they are treated just like how a customer should be served. Sad to say, it is not the same case in Malaysia. Not only as if they are guarding a gold inside their mouth that makes it impossible for them to show a smile to their customers, they even find it difficult to say two simple appreciative words like "thank you". Worse still, some will just hand you the change buy putting them onto your palm reluctantly. This is one sad story, but it is the reality. Maybe in Malaysia, they have forgotten the line, "Customers are always right" and "Customers comes first". But of course, there should be a certain level of tolerance and considerations from both parties.
There are still a lot of things like punctuality and how much emphasis does our public place on about environmental issues. I could summarise the points mentioned above into one word, that distinguish the attitude of the Japanese from we Malaysians - discipline. Small matter as they might sound, nevertheless it is small matter that makes a difference, in facing with the demanding world nowadays. When we are exposed to these things overseas, indirectly we will learn and take these values back and maybe one day make our country better place to live and to ensure that we do not lose out to other more developed countries.
We have achieved independence for more than half a century, but how much have we grown? Have we grown as equally as much as our country's age? Should we still live with the "third-world-mentality" in our minds? If the answer is a big "NO", then should change our "Tidak apa" attitude for a better and more efficient country and to achieve our nation's Vision 2020. That would benefit all of us, not just for ourselves but for our future generation in the eyes of the world. It is never too late for us to make a difference. Lets make this year's Merdeka celebration as a stepping stone for every single of us to make that a reality, and not just merely a dream that never materialise. We can do it if we believe in ourselves, because I have faith and I know we can do it.
Malaysia Boleh!
I took less than two hours to complete the essay above, and I must say it is not the best. I opted to write my essay in a simple and reader-friendly tone, instead of a serious tone with sophisticated words, because I want the readers to feel and get a better and deeper insight on what I am trying to imply through my experiences. Furthermore, I do not have a strong vocab and it would be suicidal for me to put in as many bombastic words inside my essay without knowing the real meaning. It is like putting excessive sugar into your cup of coffee.
I would like to personally thank her because she did a proof-read for me and also some editing here and there before I submitted my entry. The result for this essay competition is supposed to be announced today, but last night, one of my senpai Ben who is in the MSAJ committee, broke the good news to me through MSN. No, I did not win the first prize, as some student who is currently doing his Masters in Japan won it. In fact, I was almost disqualified because I did not write my particulars inside my essay. I only wrote those details in the email together with the attached file. The judges from the Malaysian embassy were lenient enough to ignore my carelessness and they did not disqualify my entry. Nevertheless, I am glad enough as my effort won me a consolation prize, which comes with a ¥3,000 (RM100) prize money and a certificate.
That is not the end.
There was another competition, called Merdeka Video Competition 2008 which is also held in conjunction with our country's independence this year. Although they never mention what they prizes will be, somehow I was tempted to join this one as well.
The theme was: Jiwa Merdeka.
I browsed through the Petronas advertisements by well-acclaimed film director and writer, Yasmin Ahmad on Youtube to get some ideas. I finally came out with an idea, which is to randomly interview kids and ask them what is Merdeka to them. I cancelled my plan to interview adults and youngsters because I prefer getting answers from young kids. The easiest way to get these kids was to head to Taiping Lake Gardens and get them at the children's playground. Me of course, asked for the permissions from their parents before I interview the kids. Most of them had no problems with that and they were more than happy for me to interview their children.
There was one Indian girl, Privita who was very shy at first that she even burst into tears when I tried to video camera her. Her parents whisked her away and told me if they manage to console their daughter, they will return to me. After a while, she came back to me to recite her sajak enthusiastically. While I was editing the video, I repeated that segment so many times that now I have memorised her sajak already. Just a few days ago, when I was buying food at the town, I came across another three kids and they were smiling at me. I smiled back to them. The next time I see them again, I will definitely treat them to a stick of ice-cream each.
Simply because I am ¥20,000 (RM666) richer from the video contest.
P/S: Ben senpai, I owe you a meal xD


Endoru said...

Congrats, Calvin and a nice video indeed. 1957 ialah tahun pertama lar, adik bukan "hari" pertama. :) Cute kids and their smiles do say it all and not knowing the fact much about Merdeka shows how much peace we have back home. Yes, you should belanja those kids a lot of stuff with the cash. ;)

KOKahKOK said...

take times to read this long post....in the office lo tell you! baca sambil berkerja....so sad is...can watch the video..gonna watch it tonite.....company block it.

by the way, i love your essay, the true fact of malaysian! not bad...at least you won for both competitions. CongratZ~~

Anonymous said...

20K richer?
belikan aku some omiyage then!aku tuntut aku tuntut!


Anonymous said...

hey, nice work!
love da video!

Joyce said...


Me join essay too :D

Dpt same lah. Next time we ganbare again ah :)

Ur video well edited lah and the kids are so cuteeeeeeeee. Made me smile lah. Sigh.....miss M`sia.

Ben Foo said...

Didn't expect my name to be on the post. Twice but a little bit small. But can ler. lol.

Ben Foo created that poster, which has a QR code trademark down below at the right hand corner. And he is demanding half of the prize for using the poster without permission. muahahhaha. just joking.

Congrats! To you and to other participants as well. I'm sure you guys will get more than just money. You guys will get the cert! You guys will get fame! (I'm sure Calvin will be famous for quite awhile :) )


Tau Sar Phneah said...

wow wow wow...that's it from me..haha..the most sincere are from the kids...not like the mat rempit around swearing bodoh...

calvin said...

@ endoru:
thanks a lot. i guess that boy was just a little bit anxious when i was taking the video xD

we have indeed a peaceful country at home, but too bad the people at the top are destroying something we have built for more than half a century for their personal glory =\

and i have made it a point to treat them if i happen to see them again in the future :)

calvin said...

@ kokahkok:
you should be working, instead of reading blog during your office hours lol xD

the content of the essay is indeed a reflection of our attitude and i am sure everyone of us can relate to that ;)

and thank you very much :)

calvin said...

@ amalina:
haha, thank you thank you =D

omiyage? i thought you were just back to malaysia recently? =P

calvin said...

@ zek:
thanks a lot.
do comment more often here, okay? xD

calvin said...

@ joyce:
congrats to you as well. yes, lets try again, if they organise such competition in the future again :D

i took roughly about three days editing the video and every minute i spent on it was very worthy :)

calvin said...

@ breachno:
haha, you do not expect me to put your name with the extra-large font size, do you? xD

i never notice that QR code trademark there, until you mentioned it. but i feel that the poster was nicely done.

personally, the cert means more to me than the cash itself. as for fame, let it decide by itself =P

calvin said...

@ tau sar phneah:
words coming from young children sometimes means a lot :)