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Halimah made a steaming cup of tea for her father who was near the railway tracks, bent over some old newspapers. She was bothered that the amount of tea leaves left was too little for a second round. She adjusted her dress which was torn over her knees and left shoulder before climbing out of her hut. She was careful not to hit the cup on the narrow door.

Halimah's father was kneeling down, engrossed in the pile he had collected. He spat betel juice on the stone slabs and barked at her for the delay. She scratched her head and drew back the fringe that covered her heart-shaped face. Her father gulped the hot tea and shoved the cup back into her hands. Chasing her to start work, he mumbled the dates of the newspapers to himself, trying to arrange them in order for Uncle Aziz. She was glad he did not ask for a second cup. Running towards her hut, she nearly bumped into Uncle Aziz pushing his cart filled with bundled up papers, freshly purchased.

Back home, Ibrahim was still asleep, curled up with Lat the stray cat. Halimah chased Lat out and kicked her twin brother roughly. He jolted out of his sleep and scolded her for giving him a fright. "What's so scary?" she yelled back, pushing forward the bowl of last night's porridge. Ibrahim grudgingly drank the porridge. He knew Halimah would not have had any side dish of sambal saved for her own breakfast only. She was not that type. "That would have enhanced the taste somewhat," he thought and drooled a little.

Halimah washed the pots and pans outside and watched the slum dwellers finally rising to attend to their many businesses. Begging was the most popular amongst the children in this part of town while the men
usually resorted to helping out contractors in transporting cement and other heavy duty labor. Halimah's mother and some of the other women were out selling baskets woven by them during the week. Although Halimah was only ten, she could weave a basket in half a day which impressed the other women.

She rolled up her long, dry, brown hair into a messy bun and dragged Ibrahim with her. They had to start early or the office crowd would be gone. They would have to use whatever they earned for lunch and track down foreigners in the many tourist spots to secure dinner later. If business went well, Halimah had promised to take Ibrahim out to watch a show at the cinema. They had been saving the past week and if luck allowed it, they would have had enough by Saturday to enjoy a little luxury.

Ibrahim did not seem enthusiastic when she reminded him of their outing. He scratched his head and threw his shirt over their father's bicycle parked outside. He walked on uninterestedly to the bus stop and sat sulking by the corner. Halimah tried cheering him up by allowing Lat to tag along but he still seemed moody. Giving up, she started out alone, begging from the people crowding the fish market nearby.

Answer the following questions using complete sentences
  1. Based on paragraphs 1 and 2, what do you think Halimah's father did for a living ?
  2. Why was Halimah glad that her father 'did not ask for a second cup' (paragraph 2) ?
  3. 'She was not that type.' (paragraph 3) What did Ibrahim mean by 'type' ?
  4. Why did Ibrahim munch on the porridge grudgingly ?
  5. What do you understand by slum dwellers ?
  6. Explain clearly why Halimah had to 'start early or the office crowd would be gone' (paragraph 5).
  7. In what way did Halimah and Ibrahim manage to have lunch and dinner every day ?
  8. What does the 'little luxury' (paragraph 5) refer to ?
  9. Describe the jobs the children, men and women who lived in the slum did for a living.
  10. According to the passage, what are two most obvious character differences between Halimah and Ibrahim ?
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He collected old newspapers in order to sell them.


The amount of tea leaves left was too little to make another cup of tea.


He meant she was not the type of girl who was selfish/greedy or inconsiderate.


The porridge was tasteless without a side dish and he was not enjoying it.


They are poor people who live in a poor area of a town.
  6. Halimah had to start begging from office workers before they got to work. / In order to beg from office workers, Halimah had to start early before the workers reached their offices.
  7. They used the money they begged from office workers to buy lunch and the money they begged from tourists to buy dinner.
  8. It refers to watching a show at the cinema.
  9. The children begged. The men worked at construction sites while the women sold baskets woven by them.
  10. Halimah was more responsible and hardworking than Ibrahim.

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Comprehension 1


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