Thursday, March 26, 2009

One hot afternoon on Minden Hill

Its school holidays again. School children would be having fun time, lazing at home, practically doing nothing. Some would spent hours laying on the sofa in front of the idiot box (TV), some adventurous ones would go fishing and camping while bookworms would be in the library or simply busy behind their books.

Parents would have a tough time. The disciplined children might help but as the saying goes, boys are boys, the long school holiday is a nightmare to many. Often we heard news children got drown while on a fishing trip or when they purposely play in ponds, cannels, rivers and on the beach.

As a father of four school going children, I too had a tough time. Alhamdulillah (luckily) my wife is a school teacher, so she as the time to spend with the children even though she has to attend to other important matters. But as a father I too had to spend quality time with the children during this holiday.

From my experience it is important and it pays to bring the children to educational settings such as the library, museum, books exhibition, park and zoo. In these places, they could developed their minds and explore new things.

During the school holidays, I managed to take time of to take my family to Penang. Driving on the Penang Bridge to the island in the morning was breeze but later on in the evening when we were on our way back to the mainland, both Penang Bridge and the road to the ferry terminals were choked with thousands of vehicles, inching their way.

By the way what’s interesting in Penang? We found out that George Town is a clean city, compared to a few years back when some media nicknamed the island ‘Pulau Pinang Darul Sampah’ (Penang, the Rubbish State). Some decades back, some people called it ‘The Pearl of The Orient’ but nowadays seldom we heard that trademark.

The fact was Penang Island was clean but not Seberang Perai (Province Wellesley). At the Butterworth bus terminal rubbish were seen uncollected, some roads muddy and the smell stinky. Perhaps those in power could do something to upgrade the cleanliness in this part of Penang.

Actually Penang is not unfamiliar to me. Since my secondary school days in north Perak in the 70s, I had been to Penang so many times, so places of such interest such as Padang Kota (Fort Cornwallis), Bukit Bendera (Penang Hill), Taman Botanikal (Botanical Gardens), Batu Ferringi and Teluk Bahang do seem to have the magnet to attract me anymore.

The Komtar structure (the tallest building in Penang), does not tick me. I remembered sometimes ago I spent the night in a ‘padang’ (field) near the Merlin Hotel (no more to be seen), staring up the stars in the sky with the Komtar’s top in sight.

So during this latest trip to Penang, where would I take my children? Surprisingly while moving along the road from Bayan Lepas to George Town (Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah), we turned left into Jalan Sungai Dua and then came the USM campus in sight.

Why not venture into USM, I thought and then asked my wife for her opinion. She agreed and the next thing we knew, we were already moving up and down Minden Hill on that hot afternoon, searching a spot to cool ourselves. We toured the campus and then stopped at its ‘Muzium & Galeri Tuanku Fauziah’ (Tuanku Fauziah Museum and Gallery – USM MGTF).

“Visiting a museum?” my 11 year old son exclaimed. I forced him inside the big white building with the others tagging behind. I thought the children would be bored, but to my surprise they spent about three hours there!

So what’s interesting about the USM Museum? Well a pamphlet given to me by one of its keepers would tell the story. Under the sub topic ‘Museum & Gallery in a Garden’, it states: “USM MGTF is amongst the earliest of its kind to be established in a local public university.

“It combines both the sciences and arts under one roof. The conceptual premise of USM MGTF is the emphasis of promotion of a balance symbiosis between heritage, modern and contemporary art, history of science and technology and the challengers of securing a sustainable development for the future.”

Under its Creative Link, it notes: “Creative Link is a series of programs for visitors and communities. If offers interactive, exciting, fun and entertaining forms of scientific knowledge enrichment as well as heritage and cultural appreciation.

“Amongst the packages are Astronomy, Science-Arts Smart Camp, Interactive Guided Tour, Science-Fiction Cinema, Flight and Car Racing Simulation, Laser Light, Physic Games and Traditional Games. It also offers several art-related workshops and short courses. Creative link is supported by several departments in USM such as the School of Arts, Cultural Center and Astronomy & Atmospheric Science Research Unit.”

So during their venture inside the museum, my boys and girls were absorbed to the many games, experiments and exhibitions there. For the younger children, there is a corner where they could show off their talents in drawing and coloring.

After the visit, visitors could scribble notes about their experience there. Their memos were placed in the walls, not far away from the exit door. I took time to jot down some of the scribbling. Many of the notes were interesting they were praising the USM-MGTF, so thumb up to USM.

Among the interesting notes:
1. “USM Museum is very nice and beautiful so that I hope to visit it another time. Because I can’t see any place like it. Because I visit it in the holatey (holiday?). But I found it very very nice than my country, Sudan. I am from a village in Gateerostate called Ummagad.” - (signature)
2. “Unexpected and marvelous technology is evolved that is strange!!! We had nice time. I like the place. I like to come back again.” – Ilham from Sudan.
3. “It was a wonderful experience. The staff was very friendly and very knowledgeable. Thank you so much.” – Sanee Solyman Ugya, Kaduke Polytechnic Nigeria.
4. “Thanks for everything. This museum is totally amazing.” – (signature)
5. “USM give us many information about technology and universe. I think USM should bring in more prehistoric related objects or fossils. I like USM.” – Fazil
6. USM, wait for me.” – (signature)

The last note I took down simplified it all – “USM, I would be here again one day, as one of your beloved citizen!”

It was a hot afternoon on Minden Hill but we have a cool and great time in USM MGTF! The visit to USM made it worth my family visit to Penang. So once again congratulations USM.

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