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Dear Diary…

Dear Diary,
I am sorry for not writing to you for the last two days. I couldn't write to you because some military men seized my school and took all of us hostage. I was trapped inside and I was very scared. I missed you very much.

When I was getting ready for school on Wednesday, I was very excited because it was going to be my first day in school. Mommy cried a little when she kissed me goodbye at the door, because she thought, "her little boy was all grown up!" I don't think I'm grown up at all because I'm only six. Beslan isn't a large village and my school is very close to our house. I walked to school with two of my best friends. I waved goodbye to them at the door of the school and walked to my class. That was the last time I saw them. Mommy won't say it, but I think they died along with all those other children.

When the military men came in wearing masks and shouting very loudly, I tried to run out of the classroom. But one of them caught me. I was very scared but I tried not to cry, because my friend says that boys don't cry. We were all made to sit down on the floor. I do not know for how long we were inside. It was very hot and I was thirsty. I think I heard some loud blasts but I am not sure what they were. Our teacher told us to pray. I only knew one prayer so I tried to say it. But I think I forgot some of the lines.

And then after a long wait some men (I think they were the police) stormed into the building and told us to run out. I heard gunshots behind me but I closed my eyes and ran. When I found my mother she hugged me very tightly and wouldn't let go. I was very happy to see her.

Dear diary, do you remember my older sister? I wrote about her, about how we used to fight and how we used to play together in the yard. She also went to the school that day. But she hasn't come home yet. She didn't run out with us. Mommy cries all the time, even though I tell her that we should go and look for my sister. I don't know why. Please pray for her.

I am very sleepy now. So I will say goodbye for today and write to you again tomorrow. Goodnight, diary.

More than 150 children died when militants seized a school in southern Russia. The nightmare, which lasted for 3 days, finally ended amidst gunshots and chaos. A few weeks have passed and already most of us have managed to push the horrific images to the back of our heads. But what about the families who lost their children? Who will hear their cries for justice? Does no one care?

By Ayesha S. Mahmud

One Night in Vegas

They say Las Vegas is a town that never sleeps. I think it does during the day that is. In fact if you drive into this city anytime when the sun is up, you'll be far from impressed. But once the sun is down, everything comes to life and the whole place feels like one big party. The lighting is just extravagant… they use as much electricity in one night as we would in a week and the whole atmosphere is fun and inviting.

Of course the best way to get the feel of Vegas (apart from gambling!) is to get down on the road, be one of the crowd and take a stroll down any one of the main roads. You'll find people of different ages all dressed in fancy clothes for the night. Hotels and casinos on your sides will not fail to amaze you with dazzling lights, cool decorations and some attraction or other in front of it, be it an artificial volcanic eruption or even a water show or an enactment from Treasure Island.

Now coming to the question everyone wants to ask: what about the casinos! Oh, they have a few of those too. Actually quite a few of them but don't ask me, Nevada law prevented me from being on a casino floor. (If you're under twenty-one you aren't even allowed inside a casino) My sister who had just turned twenty-one only weeks ago had the chance to see every single casino, while I had to wait outside.

I wasn't about to go back from Vegas without having seen a casino so I found myself thirsty every few minutes and just had to get some water from the casino bar. I even had the chance to slip in a coin or two had my younger niece not decided to follow me in. At once a guard appeared from no where and told me to take my 'child' of the casino. So I dutifully took hold of her and led her out. Spoil sport! Of course when my sister came out I remembered to inform her that the 'real' gambling didn't take place anywhere on the casino floors, if you know what I mean.

The 'Circus Circus' is one place I really enjoyed myself. Sure I felt a little kiddy throwing toy basketballs into fake hoops and shooting ducks but lets face it its a lot of fun and I had never been to a circus back at home(this place is much more than a circus, though). So I soon forgot to be self-conscious and tried out every game there was in the house. We managed to win a Fiona doll but the dumb machine wouldn't let me pick a Shrek. It ate up my ten dollars before I realized what it was up to, so giving it one good kick, I moved on to the next game.

Las Vegas is also supposed to have some of the world's finest food, so don't be surprised if you manage to lose yourself like I did in one of the buffets. This is an eater's paradise! Rows and rows of yummy food freshly prepared and you're allowed to eat as much as you want! Not that you can eat all that…take it from me, it's a bad idea to try each and every dish. It was here that I almost blew up a coffee machine which had gotten too hot and overflowed with boiling hot French Vanilla, though I still stick to my original comment: "Its NOT my fault!"

Night life is what Vegas is known for but we spent ours strolling down the streets admiring the buildings, MGM Grand, Luxor and Bellagio(is that how you spell it?) were just like I had seen them in Oceans11. In fact after we came back home we watched a movie once again and it gave me a funny feeling to have been someplace that I could now see on a t.v. screen. Ok, I admit, I had a fun time pretending that I was there to rob MGM Grand. It was a nice way of getting back at those people for not letting me in. Every few minutes I smirked at the guards as if I knew something they didn't, but it didn't seem to work.

One thing that I must really mention here is the atmosphere in casino is almost hypnotizing. You can't blame people for being addicted the diffused lights, the sounds of money tumbling out of machines, the free drinks and the dé
cor make your mind hazy and for the time you're there you might actually not want to leave. It gives you an eerie feeling of emptiness and happiness while they rob you of your money! The saddest scene is all those old people almost crouching over slot machines spending their life savings, but they must be having fun! The old ladies seemed more determined, coming in early in the morning and leaving late at night.

So I'll never have enough courage to spend as much money as these old ladies. So what! I know I had a great time in Las Vegas and hope to go back sometime soon maybe in in a few years time, and yeah, maybe even rob MGM Grand…

By the Hitch-hiker

Step Up

Omni School Of Music

I remember sitting at home staring enviously at the music channels on television, while the skilled musicians created enchanting euphonies with as much ease as though they'd been born playing those instruments. I'd want so bad to be able to pick up a guitar or a piano (okay, so I wouldn't exactly pick up a piano, but you get the point) and make it sing. I'm sure I'm not the only person to have felt that way.

The Omni School of Music has made it possible for music buffs to learn instruments like Guitar, Piano and Violin.

Let's start with Guitar lessons. For absolute beginners, there's the instructor Ziaus Shams, who graduated from staff notation courses in London. His classes are held only on Thursdays 4.00 to 8.00p.m. For advanced learners, the instructor is Md. Khaled Ibrahim who is also a professional guitarist and his class timings are Mondays and Thursdays 4.00 to 7.00p.m.

The piano instructor is Md. Shamsul Arefin who graduated from DIMS. An amiable and soft-spoken person, his class schedules are Friday, Sunday and Tuesday from 3.00 to 8.00p.m.

For violin OMS has instructor Nusrat Mumtaz Ruposhi who graduated from a music school in India. She is also a professional violin player, having recently released her solo album 'Bodhu Biday", and her class schedules are on Fridays and Saturdays from 5.30 to 8.00 p.m.

The school offers its students nice, airy rooms that put you into the mood for playing music. The group sizes are kept small, so that the students receive adequate attention from their instructors.

You can sign up for a package of one class a week, and free practice timings on any working day, for a registration fee of Tk 1000 and a further Tk1000 per month until you've mastered your instrument. These fees hold true for Guitar (Beginners), Piano, and Violin classes, while for Guitar (Advanced) the admission fee is Tk2000 and monthly fee is Tk1500.

So why wait just grab the instrument you want to learn and run to Omni School of Music; who knows you might just turn out be a famous artist one day.

Omni School of Music is located at House-4/G, Road-104, Gulshan-2, Dhaka-1212, Bangladesh.

By Tashmia Zaman

RS Study Buddies

Introduction to the TOEFL
If you're planning to study in the West, they'll definitely be wanting you to take a language proficiency test for English. There are many tests of this kind, but most American and Canadian unis still prefer the TOEFL. So read on, and lets take this test apart, shall we?
The Test Of English A Foreign Language (TOEFL) is a Standardized test that evaluates the English Proficiency of people whose native language is not English. Nearly 2400 education institutes in the United States and Canada require TOEFL scores from each applicant. The test is also used by institutions in other countries where English is the language of instruction. The TOEFL tests the ability to understand North American English.

Computer Based TOEFL (CBT) test
The test is designed in such a way that it would be unlike any other test you would have taken at school or college. Firstly, there are no question paper or answer sheets, nor are the questions same for all the examinees. Furthermore, you don't have the option of not answering a question (unless, of course, you run out of time at the end). All this because the TOEFL test is now an entirely Computer based test - the keyboard and mouse do the work of a pen or pencil. The test is scored out of 300, and most scores fall in the range of 200-250.

The Examiners
The TOEFL test is developed and administered by the US-based "Educational Testing Service" (ETS), the same guys who bring you the SAT tests. This implies that ETS sets the questions, conducts the test, and sends each examinee the score report. For the conduct of the test, ETS has appointed Testing Agencies in various countries, which act as franchisee for ETS. For Bangladesh, you have to contact The American Centre at Rd 27, Banani.

Test Dates
The CBT is held all round the year. Unlike other exams, you can choose your own date and time for taking the TOEFL test! September to December is the high season for TOEFL test, so in case you intend to take the test during this period, you need to register very early (say 90 days in advance) to get a date of your choice. Otherwise, registering at least three days in advance is mandatory. The test lasts roughly four hours.

Eligibility and Fees
Anyone and everyone is eligible for taking the TOEFL test - there are no restrictions based on age or qualifications. The test scores are valid for two years, i.e., most universities accept scores up to two years old.
The test fees for TOEFL are $130. The fees have to be paid through a US Dollar denominated draft, made out in favour of "ETS - TOEFL" payable in the U.S. Alternately, the payment can also be made through a credit card which has global acceptance. So if you have access to an international credit card, this is the most efficient way to pay.

How to Apply
Take yourself off to the American Centre at Rd 27, Banani. From there, you have to collect the Test Scheduling Form. Consulting the instructions set out in the Registration Bulletin (available at http://www.toefl.org ) fill it up, attach to a bank draft, and mail it to:
P.O. Box 12964
50794 Kuala Lampur

If you have access to an international credit card, you can complete your registration by fax or phone. The numbers are available on the TOEFL website.

The TOEFL only tests your English proficiency. A high score alone does not translate into an admission offer from a great school. However, the test is mandatory and cannot be overlooked. I'll be back next week with more information on this vital exam.

For further queries about the CBT, check out http://www.toefl.org

By Sabrina F Ahmad




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