31 Dec 2007

Last day of 2007

Today is the last day of 2007. I have been at my pc since this morning - finishing the PMR composition book. Now just sitting here, reflecting on the past year.
Well early in the year I was in Mekah, doing my haj. That was an unforgettable time. I was afraid before I went - after all the stories I've heard, of sinners who are not forgiven. I'm grateful - that I was forgiven, both by Him and by Repin. I wish I can go again - this time not for atonement but just to revel in that holiest of holy places, to worship the Almighty and to do all those nafl prayers I missed when I was there. I would like to go to the Masjid Nabawi too, to visit with the Prophet (pbuh) and just sit near his mausoleum and pray.
This year too we got our grand daughter - the irrepressible Sophia Meiyin. I love her so much sometimes it feels like my whole heart is full. I'm grateful to Allah for her - for giving her to her parents and giving her to us. I feel like she completes our life as I'm sure she completes Rizal's and Pohling's too. As you can see from the pictures I posted she is a happy child.
Outside of this tiny space of my life, this year too has been a year of upheavals and political turmoil, both in Malaysia and out. In Malaysia there was the Bersih campaign and the Hindraf protest. Both turned ugly though luckily nobody was seriously injured. I know a lot of people, mostly the young and the cynical, think that the Bersih Campaign is for the good of all and that our polls are clearly corrupt. I disagree with them. Rather - those people I feel had other motives for protesting, and none of them clean. Especially when you hear that Keadilan was at the bottom of the campaign.
Out in the world Pakistan is one country that has had a lot of upheaval in the past few months. Even before Benazir came back to Pakistan that country has been having problems concerning Musharaf's regime. Since her return things went from bad to worse. And now she is dead and I don't know what will happen to Pakistan. I wish the people weren't so volatile, so passionate about things, so violent in their passion. Moderation has its points too.
The world too is in a bad shape environmentally. Global warming has started to show its fangs and Mother Nature seems to be going bonkers with heavy storms and hurricanes all over the world. In Bangladesh and China severe storms and floodings have killed thousands of people. The same went to India, the US and parts of Europe. Is the end of the world really coming soon?
I hope next year things will be better. For us, Repin and I would like to go for our Umrah. I would like to see my children more settled in their lives - Rizal and Pohling with Sophia; Wan and Eliza I hope will really get back together if that is what they want. I think the girls are ok - Sara I hope will distance herself from Neville ;and Shasha - well she is who she is. I think she's happy as she is and happy too at Kinokuniya. I hope that she will continue her Japanese and one day get her dream job in Japan.
Do I have any resolutions for 2008? I wont call them resolutions - because whenever I make any I don't really follow up. But I do hope I will finish reading the Quran (and know its meaning); I hope too that I will pray all the nafl prayers every time, not just the fajar ones. I would ask God to give me patience - for I have never had that quality and I really need it. Repin is not only patient, he's always calm, unlike me. Must be the Pathan side of me.

30 Dec 2007

28 Dec 2007

Benazir

So it's happened finally. Benazir has been assassinated by a person or persons unknown. She was in Rawalpindi campaigning for the upcoming elections when a suicide bomber exploded infront of her. But eyewitnesses also said that they heard two shots at the same time and she was probably dead before the bomb went off. It's really sad and shockingly violent - I wouldn't want my worst enemy to die like that, let alone someone I've admired for some time. But howver shocking it is, I think its hardly surprising. After the last attempt, they all should have been more aware.
I admire her for her beauty, her elegance and style, her arrogance, her quick wit and her courage. It is her courage and fierce loyalty that brought her back to Pakistan even though she knew it may prove fatal.
People have died for her, thousands mourned her death and because of its untimely happening, crowds are going berserk everywhere in Pakistan. Mobs are destroying everything in sight - banks, cars even trains have been burned. The sad thing is that even a mosque was not spared...If Pakistan was on the brink of catastrophe, it has gone over the edge now and I wonder what will happen. Many have pointed fingers at Al Qaida, others at other Muslim extremists. But I think the silent majority are wondering and whispering... is it a conspiracy?

23 Dec 2007

Singapore


Am in Singapore now visiting Rizal and Pohling. Repin, Shasha and I took the express bus from KL - Odyssey. The tickets were not cheap - RM95, but the bus ride was not bad. The seats were wide and there was also plenty of leg room. They even had individual entertainment units - to watch videos or play games. I read instead and passed the journey quite pleasantly. The bus stopped for a few minutes at Pagoh Rest area - see picture - and I think I even nodded off for a while. We were also provided with a light lunch on board, which came as a surprise. It took us about 4 hrs to reach Singapore. Since the bus used the second link, immigration check was a breeze. No queue at all!

This is my first real trip to Singapore since my RELC days! And that was years ago. Singapore has changed and yet much is the same too. I noticed alot of new places, but what I loved best about Singapore is still the same - the greenness, the old buildings that are so well-preserved and the efficiency of its transport system. Aah.. a note - it can't beat Japan where efficient transport system is concerned. There the trains run like clockwork!!

I have gone through various stages of feelings for this country. Once it was just an extension of Malaysia - you could go across as if you were going to the next town or city. Until 1965 that is. Then everything changed - you need a passport to go across - first a 'blue across the border' passport. And now an international one. AAh Singapore - once I loved it like my own hometown. But then it changed hands. It belonged to another who gave it a complete makeover so you did not look anything like the sibling you came from. And then I hated you. After that I thought of you as soulless - but that again has changed. Under the PM Lee Junior I find Singapore more appealing, more personal. There is a depth about it that is so truly Singapore. It has made itself I think into a completely different country that the moment you step into the country - at the border - you are reminded that you are in a foreign land. But I feel at home too so that there is no strangeness at all. The sounds and voices are as in my own country, the people look the same, even the food is the same. And yet it is different too. It has its own identity that is uniquely Singapore.

I really love the way they look after their trees - mostly mature now- looking as if they have been there for centuries instead of only a few decades old. KL wants to be called a garden city, but I think Singapore achieves that effortlessly. Most of the roads are tree-lined, not just young newly planted trees but really old and gnarled ones. There are also lots of flowering plants - hibiscus, bougainvilla, even orchids along most of the roads. In Malaysia when they planted orchids in Shah Alam, after one month most of the orchids had disappeared( guess to where) or had died due to lack of maintenance. Oh I could talk about lack of maintenance till the cows come home but maybe let's just leave it at that.


Rizal's apartment is situated so near the MRT we could walk there. It's also near to the market and there is a mosque nearby. Today we went to Mami Mila's place and visited Mama Hashim. Talking to him and looking at him helping around the house one would hardly think that he has the big C. He is so active and insisted on helping Mami in the kitchen. Later Rizal took Shasha and me to the City Hall shopping centre - its a huge place linked to other shopping centres underground. But when we compare prices in KL I realise that its so expensive inspite of the sale. So ended up not buying anything!


Sophia is getting more and more cheeky these days. Tonight she didn't want to sleep - crying out loudly when her mum tried to put her to bed but smiling cheekily the moment Rizal took her out of the bedroom. That girl can really be cheeky at times. Will post some pictures later after we upload them.

21 Dec 2007

Idil Adha

Yesterday was Idil Adha.
Idil Adha is no longer as fun as it was years ago when both my parents were around. Anyway was just thinking how fast the year went by - last year around this time we were at Mina, preparing to go to the Jamratul to throw the stones at the devil. And now its already a year. Last year we didnt even realise it was Aidil Adha - we were so busy carrying out the different rituals connected to Haj.
Hari raya Haji is no longer "fun" as before. Even a few years ago everyone would come home for the raya - but this year none of my children came home - Wan was too depressed and Shasha had to work, Rizal is in Singapore and Sara of course is in Russia. They say once your children are grown up its easier - I think there are still problems, they're just different ones.
Anyway Saz came down to Malacca so at least I had company. Of course Repin was home too - we all went to Semabok as usual. Adi and his family were there and later Ipah and her family came too. Earlier I was in Banda Kaba - they were all excitedly planning for the family day. Everyone was talking at the top of their voices so I don't really know who is listening. I really wish I could go too - but without my own children what's the use? Wan is still feeling shitty about Elle's refusal to see him. Part of me feel it serves him right for dumping her without any real reason.I think that horrid Chinese girl had a lot to do with this. And I just hope he doesn't go back to her now that Elle doesn't want to see him anymore. Of course my heart aches for him but he should have listened to me.But I guess sometimes behind every thing there is a silver lining - he just can't see it right now. I'll pray that he finds a new girl - a good Muslim.

15 Dec 2007

Sara



Looking at Sarah's pictures on Facebook makes me realise how much I miss my baby.Everytime we have something here I think of her - what is she doing, what is she eating, is she ok? Sometimes I purposely block the feelings not wanting to feel that heaviness deep inside. Its the same with Rizal before when he was at WMU. I guess with firstborns and youngest ones its always like that. Not that I don't love my other two, but theyre always there - at home with me. When I cook something specially nice I always think what Sarah is eating tonight. Poor darling, having to contend with the cold and the foreign land and the studies.It's a long time before we see her again and I really wish she's coming home this winter nstead of going places. But I guess we must let them fly away free - they'll come home soon enough.

12 Dec 2007

Rizal and family



Got some nice photos of Rizal, Poh Ling and Sophia. Just look at that cheeky face!

4 Dec 2007

Melaka

Its been quite a while since I was in Melaka. The last time we went back we hardly spent a day at the house. Too many things going on - kenduri, visits to this and that relative and all kinds of things that could not be avoided unless you don't mind hurting the people you love.
What I want is to spend a whole day here in my home, pottering about in the garden, looking at my pond, pruning my roses. But coming home to Malacca is not just about staying at home, its about visiting my mum in law too. If we dont go over she might get hurt because she's prepared all kinds of food for her son so I guess its ok for me to sacrifice my day at home to be with her.
But oh... how I wish I can just stay home... and read a book, do a spot of gardening and just be myself.

26 Nov 2007

Sophia

Her many faces...
Cheeky





19 Nov 2007

Nile Cruise













A cruise is a wonderful way to see a country,as well as get to know people. The Nile is more than 900 miles long and it traverses the whole length of Egypt. Its headwaters are actually in Sudan. Our cruise ship had sailed from Aswan, which is in the south of Egypt and is now going down to the northern end of the African continent, towards Luxor, which at one time was called Thebes, where we will disembark. The passengers are a mixed group. 27 of us are guests of the Academy while the rest are from different tour groups. I met a couple - newly weds - from Penang, Lim and his wife, Chin. There were also Germans, French, Dutch, Spanish, Greek and Italians. There was also a couple from Tunisia, newly married too and Professor Marzak and his wife, Husna from Morrocco. The guests from the Academy included the Lebanese ladies - Suzanne and Leila and two more I don't know. Then there were the Hungarians (4 of them), as well Tom and his friend Jaime Ortiz from Texas A&T. Puan Sri and I managed to talk to some of them, and realized that Jaime Ortiz whom we thought was proud was actually quite shy. Above centre is our good looking guide, Adil. Apart from the passengers, I love the cruise itself. The Nle is a beautiful river - green fields of cocoa, cotton or sugar cane can be seen on its banks and the river itself is teeming with wild life. We saw lots of birds, ducks or mallards and water buffaloes. Unfortunately (or fortunately) there werent any crocodiles to be seen.

Visiting temples, Egypt

As you can see here the temples are huge. Imagine these were built by the ancient Egyptians thousands of years ago. And we think the West has all the technology. Its quite mind boggling, to think how they carried the huges stones and cut them to form these temples. This one is the temple of Hepshepkut, one of the powerful queens of Egypt. They were so ahead of us!



As you can see from the pictures, the temples are gigantuan. This is Karnak, one of the temples near Luxor or Thebes, as it was called in Roman times.

Luxor is a lovely place -cleaner, and more beautiful to me, than Cairo. It also has some big hotels, including the Hilton and Holiday Inn. A nice place for a holiday I think. Much of the land transport here from what I see are horse drawn open carriages.

17 Nov 2007

Aswan and Nile Cruise, Egypt










The Aswan dam is really big. Not as huge as the Hoover Dam in the Colorado, but its at least 4 km long - the dam itself. The lake which it formed is called Lake Nasser, after the Egyptian president who went all out to have it built. The original dam was built by British engineers but after the 1970s it became too inefficient to control the severe flooding of the Nile so the Egyptian govt decided to build another one, with the help of the Soviets. Lake Nasser is really huge - so huge you can't see its banks. The guide told us that its the biggest man made lake in the world. From the plane it did look enormous - more like an inland sea.


Our cruise ship was the Nile Ruby. It's like a floating hotel, complete with gym, swimming pool and jacuzzi, two bars, a large dining room and shops. Repin and I had a comfortable room, with a large queen bed and sofas. Our ship would only sail tonight at 3.00 am so we were told to enjoy Aswan town on our own. Repin and I went for a ride in an pen carriage - but the poor horse was so skinny and under nourished we both changed our minds and told the driver to take us back to the ship. I bought the horse an apple, hoping that would at least keep the poor animal from starving but I'm bluffing myself. I'm sure it wont last very long. I've noticed this about many Arabs and Egyptians in general - they don't really care much for animals. They don't keep pets - not as far as I can see. There were'nt any cats anywhere in Mansoora.


The Nile itself is beautiful here. Lots of green on both sides of the banks. From what I can see there are banana plantations, mangoes as well as dates.


On the second night on board I got a shock of my life. Going back to the room after dinner I saw this thing hanging from my ceiling. Repin wasn't with me so I was really scared. Thought someone was trying to frighten us. But after some enquiries I found out that the others got it too - Puan sri got the same thing -towels hanging from the ceiling.



16 Nov 2007

Nile Cruise, Egypt


It was early the next morning that we flew to Aswan. Flight was at 5.30 am so we had to be at the airport by 3.00 am! By 2.00 in the morning we were all ready at the lobby, some looking perky and fresh but some like En Omar, looking as if he had just gotten up from bed. There was a belly dancing show going on upstairs so Prof Shaari and myself decided to go up and take a look. Hmm... very sexy. Wish I had a camera but Repin was carrying it.
Sayeed again took us to the airport, driving as if there was a demon on his tail - through the silent Cairo streets. It was such a nice change from the usual noise and crowd that I quite enjoyed looking at the houses as he wheezed by.
The flight was on time and we all piled on to the plane. Not small as I had envisioned - a 737 A300. And it was quite full too. I saw that most of the conference delegates were also there, which meant that we were not the only ones going. Slept for a bit on the plane but woke up just before sunrise to see a pearly dawn touching the eastern sky. Far below I can see the Nile snaking along, green on both sides but just beyond that the relentless desert creeps along.
Just before we landed I can see a huge lake, so large it looked like a sea. I guess that must be the Aswan Dam.

15 Nov 2007

Khan El Khalili, Cairo


This is part of the oldest university in the Islamic world - Al Azhar University. Its actually right next to Khan El Khalili.

Khan El Khalili is actually a sprawling bazaar. Its a labyrinth of little shops interconnected to each other by narrow lanes. Prices are anywhere from 1 Egyptian pound to 1000s. It can one thing at one shop and another in another shop. So buyers beware - you really have to bargain and be canny among these Arab shopkeepers. They may skin you alive!!


Its so crowded Puan Sri and I decided not to go inside its bustling depths. We decided to be practical and avoid all the hassle and jostling by staying outside - hmm cowards maybe?

Back to Cairo




The Sphinx




We went back to Cairo on 14 November. The journey took slightly more than two hours - fairly interesting views along the way. Much of Egypt is desert and the main source of water is the Nile. We passed it numerous times, driving beside it for a few miles and then along canals or waterways which also provided irrigation to the farms. There were lots of farms along the way - I think agriculture is the mainstay of the economy. There were also vineyards from what I can see. Corn, barley, rice and fruits as well as vegetables were also abundant.
Arriving in Cairo around just before 3.00pm, we were caught in what looks like rush hour traffic. But Sayeed the driver said that it is always like this - congestion or jams occur practically at all times of the day. I didn't see much of Cairo last time but today we get to see more. Lots of tall buildings - some very new and modern but others mainly residences or blocks of flats from the utilitarian designs. Crowds everywhere, cars and vans and buses jostle for space on the roads and movement is practically snail space. We arrive at the hotel at sharp 3.15. Its quite nice from the outside, though I think its 3 star. After checking in we were told to come back down immediately for our trip to the pyramids at Giza, which closes at 4pm.


The Pyramids are like nothing I've imagined. Even from a distance they look awesome, rising out of the desert like some aliens had built them . We were dropped at a vantage point where we could see all three pyramids at once. Imagine they were built by Egyptian slaves thousands of years ago. The largest pyramid was the pyramid of King Cheops - standing at more than 500 m.
Sayeed had to leave us there because vehicles weren't allowed in after 3.30pm. So we had to walk down to the entrance. That was a long walk - almost 3 km of walking in the desert. Imagine if you were lost! Luckily it was cool, inspite of the sun. Temperature must be around 17 degrees celsus.

12 Nov 2007

Mansoura, Egypt







We arrived at Mansoura probably around 10 something, but I can't really remember the time mainly because I felt quite disoriented. Our hotel seems ok enough - not the best but pleasant and clean. This is a view of the Nile from my room. Beautiful in the early dawn.
Mansoura is still crowded though probably less so as compared to Cairo. All the buildings seem pretty old. Even the cars were very old. I don't want to sound too critical but the whole place looked as if it lacked care and maintenance. The streets were dirty and dusty, the buildings even more so. People were everywhere. Even though the Nile flowed through the city, there seemed to be little care for it. Not that there was rubbish or whatever, its just that they could have planted flowers to brighten up the place. But beautification doesn't seem to be an important issue with the Egyptians. There was a garden of sorts near the banks of the river but Dina, the sweet young executive who took us around, said we could not walk there because it belonged to a club and only members could walk there. Isn't that a shame? They've got a beautiful park along the river but its not public.
We made a stop to look at some shops but most of the goods inside were not really appealing to either of us. However not to disappoint out pretty guide we both bought scarves at one of the shops she took us. The price was okay but the shops were dingy and poorly lighted so they didnt really encourage buying. Even the goods appeared old and dusty. I wonder if they have any modern shops but according to Dina, all their shops looked like that. My overall impression of Mansoura is that its too crowded and people are more concerned about the day to day living than to pretty up a place that would not bring money? Maybe that sounded harsh but it could be pretty, given some care.

Cairo, Egypt

Going to Cairo we travelled First class - my first experience travelling in this part of the plane. We had really posh seats - it can be turned into a massage chair at the push of a button and can also be changed into a bed of sorts if you wanted to sleep. We have our own mini bar beside our chair and if we wanted privacy we could raise the thin plastic wall between us. Since I sat beside Repin, of course I didnt want privacy. We even had out own steward to cater to our whims! He taught me to use the massager and the tv. Food was excellent - I ordered something typically arab, which included lots of herbs and some kinds of paste - kind of an appetizer. Can't remember the name though.
We landed in Cairo on time but there was a delay getting our baggage - the airport is old and reminded me of some colonial place. And the crowd! I've never seen so many people in one place except when I was doing my haj. Really, there were people everywhere. All colours, though mainly Arabs. And the noise - it fairly made my head turn. Mahmoud was waiting for us as soon as we left Immigration and after the hugging and the salaams, quicky ushered us out to some vehicles outside. But although the cars and van were already waiting, there appeared to be something else amiss because Mahmood was arguing with somebody for some time before we could actually move out.
My first impressions of Cairo? Lots of tall buildings which appeared to be flats, crowded and dirty - a bit like Jakarta and Delhi put together. Seen from the air it looked like a large sprawling city with the desert encroaching it at every corner. But we're not staying in Cairo - so will give my impressions later when I see it for real.
From Cairo we moved out to Mansoura - a city about 200km north of Cairo, smaller and maybe less crowded.

11 Nov 2007

Dubai




We're finally off to Egypt - the trip I've been waiting for. We're travelling business class - wow! First stop was Dubai and we arrived there very early in the morning. I think we checked into the hotel - Taj Dubai at about 6.30 am. Since we had half a day in Dubai, we decided not to waste time but to go out sight seeing immediately. So after checking in we quickly changed and went off. First to see was the Burj Al Arab - a tall and stately structure that stands out in the horizon. Dubai is so modern - and souless. Everything is new and squeeky clean - you cant see anything older than 10 years anywhere in sight! Even the cars are large, modern and Ámerican. In fact I think many parts of the city look like some parts of LA - the nicer parts. There is a lot of construction going on - never have I seen so many new construction sites and cranes as in this place. But you can't deny that it is beautiful - manicured lawns - looking so green you can't believe that this was once a desert. Somehow though I feel it lacks something - character. But the place is shiny and dazzling - like a beautiful new toy belonging to a rich child.

6 Nov 2007

OUM Raya Open House

The setting was lovely - over the pond and beside the waterfall was the dais upon which stood the musicians. The platform itself was decorated simply but beautifully with large bouquets of white roses and crocuses, also white. There were roses everywhere - at every corner of the platform. All in the same tall and elegant pots, decorated with ferns and roses.
There must have been at least a hundred tables and there were so many people. Most of the staff who knew me came and said hi or shook hands or salaamed. The food of course was mediocre - we were at the VIP table so food was served. However the rest of the staff - as Dr John Arul said - the phlebians - had the honour of picking and choosing their own food at the fantastic buffet at the back of the garage. Of course we could have taken the food there but I was too lazy to get up and anyway its only food. However the singers more than made up for it. One of them was Haziq, who was in last year's AF. Farhan was also there as was The Singing Shop, courtesy of Tan Sri Azman. Most of the staff were dressed up to the nines - in their raya clothes. Some brought children along and since it was also a Deepavali thing - most of the Indian staff were also there. I saw Kul with her two daughters - she introduced them to Jean, who was the guest of honour. Jean came during the UMNO general assembly so she had to wear the UMNO uniform - red and white. She looks like a fairly nice and simple person - down to earth and friendly, unlike the PM's late wife. Things went on until fairly late in the afternoon so I made my excuses and went back to Pohling's to again take up my role as child minder!

3 Nov 2007

The fish pond

Home at last in Malacca. Its so sad really looking at my waterfall and the so-called fish pond. No more fishes inside - just a load of tadpoles! Some stupid frog managed to lay eggs in my pond and this morning when I looked there must have been hundreds of tadpoles inside it. There were so many tadpoles even the little guppies I put inside to ward of mosquitoes seem afraid. Sigh... I guess I have to empty the water and let it be empty until there comes a time when I can really stay put in this place and rear some beautiful koi. I really miss looking at them, especially in the morning when it comes time for feeding. Maybe I'll persuade Repin to get one or two to put in the pond. At least that way it wouldn't look so bare. A fish pond without fish is so sad.

1 Nov 2007

More Books

Now reading Jennifer Weiner - her early books were Little Earthquakes, In her Shoes and Good in Bed. I've read all three and find her quite engrossing and sometimes funny. She has an interesting outlook on life's little quirks and may be an entertaining read on days when you don't have much to do. The latest - Goodnight Nobody - is like the first one in a way. Its about young mother of three, Kate Klein, with no good husband trying to get a grip on her marriage whilst balancing her daily routine of sending children to school, watching her youngest at the playground and trying hard to keep husband Ben stay interested in the marriage. This at least until one day she stops over at her friend Kitty's and finds her dead - with a knife in her stomach. In spite of what the police chief said Kate decides to play detective and tries to find out more about the dead Kitty. She uncovers quite a lot of unpleasant things - not only about Kitty, but also about the nice , white picket fence neighbourhood she lives in. Hmmm... read the book if you want to know more! Reads abit like Desperate Housewives without the glamour.


Revisited my favourite romance writer - Nora Roberts. Have just read some of her newer novels, the last was Angel Falls. This is more like Northern Lights, one of her previous books or Blue Smoke. Lots of detective work and suspense. Somehow I prefer her older books such as the trilogy - Born in Fire, Born in Ice and Born in Shame. and the Chesapeake Bay Quartet. In these novels she shows the research that she has done on every aspect of the stories - the glass making business in Born In Fire and small town life in the Chesapeake bay stories about the Quinn brothers. The characters have greater depth, even the lesser characters. She has expanded into the realms of fantasy in her latest series - The Circle Trilogy : Morrigan's Cross, Dance of the Gods and Valley of Silence. Of course she can never beat Lord of the Rings in its depth and richness but for a starter I guess its ok.

Sophia


My cherub of a grand daughter is now 3 plus months and she can turn on her stomach no less. However it stops there and once turned she grunts a bit for want of something better to do! A few minutes later or seconds if she's grumpy, she'll call for help in her inimitable way.
Among other things - she now cries more when she wants attention, she also laughs just as much. Have not yet decided if she prefers milk in the bottle or mum's milk - most times mummy's best but at times even mummy loses. Even at this age she knows how to wrap you around her little fingers - me especially! Here she is,looking for all you know like a six month old, perching from her pram.

30 Oct 2007

Readings

I've been wanting to write up about some of the books I've been reading lately but just couldn't find the time. Just got a stash of books recently - mainly chick lit and some Asian Lit. There's one I've been wanting to recommend to any body interested in a good read - that is The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. It is a poignant and deeply moving story of two boys growing up in Afghanistan - the land that is being systematically destroyed by the Americans. Set against a background of the late Afghan monarchy in its final stages of oblivion, it goes right into the present and shows us the rich cultural background of a hitherto unknown region. Afghanistan was my grandfather's land and when I first took the book that was the main attraction. However, once started I could not put it down. Set in the 1960s, it tells the story of young Amir who lives a priviledged life and his friendship with Hassan, the son of his servant. However, while Amir constantly strives to gain his father's love and acceptance, Hassan it seems could do no wrong in his father's eyes. He takes part in the annual kite flying tournament hoping to gain his father's attention and his love. He wins the tournament but just as he thinks all will be well between him and his father, he see Hassan being raped by a group of boys in a back alley. Amir ignores the incident and buries his guilt by being cruel to Hassan. Political changes in Afghanistan take over after this incident which marks a change in the boys' relationship, and Amir's family escapes to America where he grows up and marries a woman he loves. But he cannot forget Hassan and that day in the back alley. His guilt torments him until he returns to Afghanistan to find out what had happened to Hassan. He finds out that Hassan and his wife had died, leaving a young boy called Sohrab. Sohrab it seems is now living with one of the Talibans. Determined to rescue Sohrab and bring him back to America, Amir risks his life and almost dies.The book had such an impact on me that I could not get it out of my mind even weeks after reading it. I'm looking forward to seeing the movie and reading his second book - A Thousand Splendid Suns.

Shasha also got me some good chick lit by Dorothy Coombs - My Bestfriend's Girl and Marshmellows For Breakfast. Both are good reads. My Bestfriend's Girl is about love and betrayal and loyalty. Unlike many of the romance novels that I've read, both these books give us an insight into friendships - even unlikely ones. In My Bestfriend's Girl for example we see a young black woman who moves away from all that she knows and loves to escape a broken heart. (I know it sounds corny but read on). She was engaged to be married to a white man, but just before the wedding she finds out that the little girl she adores belonging to her best friend, is actually the love child of her soon to be wed fiance' and her best friend. Grief stricken, betrayed and unsure of herself she runs away and stays away for six years. But six years later she finds out that her best friend is dying of cancer and she has inherited the little girl - proof of her fiance's betrayal. Now she has to bring this little girl up as her own and cope with her own sense of loss and guilt.
This sometimes moving, sometimes funny story tells us how she copes with bringing up a child and finding her own self. A really good read and a must have!!





20 Oct 2007

Age is catching up Kat!!

Old age sure takes the fun out of things we used to enjoy before. I was doing some gardening - weeding and repotting some plants when I had a sharp ache in my back. Wan used to scold me for bending from the waist. He says we must always squat first before we want to lift things.Well who can remember such things? And this evening when Repin and I were sitting down for dinner he groaned because he said his knee was giving him some pain. What a pair of old foggies we are!
But I think we were both very lucky we didnt suffer any aches and pains when we were on our haj. Just thinking of the walk from our tent in Mina to the place where we "stoned the devil"I wonder how we managed the walk. Granted there were hundreds of others walking with us, but even then. I remember feeling very tired though but when I look back at some of the others - many of them much older than me, some in wheelchairs and some with disabilities - it gave me the impetus to walk on. And Repin was always beside me or behind me all the time. In restrospect it was quite an adventure. Just imagine - hundreds (just our group) of pilgrims - all dressed in white, wearing the bright yellow vests to ward off the cold, marching towards the hills for the jamratul U'la. It was 6 km to and fro and none of us complained. At that time we never felt our age. God is truly great.
And yet now, just after a few months I ache all over just doing simple things like carrying Sophia, carrying pots in the garden, mopping the floor. Wouldnt it be nice to grow old without being sick or without aching bones. Scientists should look for a cure against that rather than a potion to make you look younger. I guess looking younger has more financial gain.
On another topic - I was looking at Rizal's blog this morning and he showed a video clip of Bukit Bintang. It was taken in August at the height of the Arab invasion - it looked as if it was taken in Riyadh or Dubai. Arab writing everywhere, and women, Arab women in veils walking as if they own the place. Now its not that we dont want them to visit our country - but I think we are turning over the identity of Bukit Bintang into one that is more like the middle east. What's wrong with keeping it Malaysian?

Sophia





What happened to my doo doo?"

ARe YOU SURE YOU DIDNT TAKE IT?

19 Oct 2007

Benazir

The daughter of the East is back in her country. Yesterday CNN showed her comeback in glory amid cheers from her supporters and today 130 of those supporters have died. A suicide bomb. Sometimes I wonder when the carnage will end. Will it ever? And why only in Muslim countries do we find all these turmoil? Some say that her return was engineered by the Americans - so that she can deflect the extremists. I think her return will encourage more suicide bombs, and more extremists. As it is the Taleban already hate her. Even her own people hate her. She has had her chance to make something of Pakistan, not once but twice. But she wasted it and left her country in 1999 amid rumours of corruption. Can she ever right the many wrongs she left behind? I doubt it.

There was a time when I really admired her. I thought she had it all - looks, charm, power and ability. I even dedicated a poem to her. But time has proven me wrong or maybe she still needed time to prove herself. Someone said that she was the mediocre daughter of a great leader. Well, in this decade, the mediocre rules. Look at the US.

18 Oct 2007

My fish pond

Yesterday I was told by my neighbour that all my fish had died. It was because my nephew had forgotten to turn off the tap and too much chlorine had gotten into the pond. At first I felt angry... this was the second time my fish had died and these were growing to be quite tame. Even though I didn't want to get attached to them I had become attached. They would come to me whenever I feed them early in the morning... gobbling up the food greedily. Now I feel frustrated and vow not to get attached to anything anymore. I loved Moshu my cat like a child, she would sleep with me every night... and when I brought her home with me to Melaka - the very same nephew chased her out into the road and she was hit by a car. I think I wailed out so loud it panicked Repin. It was as if my heart had broken. Even months after that I could not talk about her without tearing up.
Well... so all my fish had died. There were nearly 2o of them - I loved the golden yellow ones best. And even the Jelawat - they're also dead. I just can't believe it. Maybe I shouldn't rear fish anymore. Just let toads breed in the pond.

15 Oct 2007

Birthday blues


Its my birthday today ... feeling kind of old too. I know I still look ok for such an old hag (he he) but these old bones do ache sometimes.Anyway just pondering things...when am I going to stay put in my house in Melaka? Its such a waste - we've got a nice garden and a lovely home but we are so seldom there to enjoy it. I want to add some more flowers... improve the ones that are already there. I'd like to establish myself in Taman Ikhsan so that the neighbours know me. Right now only Kak Yah and Norliee know me and although I've met a few others I dont really know their names. What a sad state of affairs isnt it? I wish my grand daughter could also grow up here- go to the local school and be friends with Edy's children Izzati and her sister. As it is I still feel like a stranger in my own neighbourhood.

Sophie's 3 rd month


Tomorrow Sophia will be three months old. This is her latest picture, held by Wan her uncle. Isn't she a cutie pie? She's the most darling baby I know. (Hmmm maybe I'm a bit biased, but she is cute!)

Idil Fitri in Melaka



This is already the 3rd day of raya. This raya is Sophia's first - all my children except Sarah are here. It's great and yet sad too because we wont be a full quorum until Sarah finishes her studies in 2011. Then only can we all enjoy a raya with the whole family. Where will we be then I wonder. Will Repin and I still be around to celebrate it? Will my mother in law still be around too? Let's hope so.
For the first time since we moved to Melaka we had breakfast in our own house - not at Mother's house in Semabok. Then my sisters and brothers came to the house - more like an attack than a visit!! It was a great day, though I felt quite tired at the end of the day.


The picture above shows Yah, Jasmin and their children with me at the waterfall. And this is me with my grand daughter, Sophia

2 Oct 2007

Ugly Malaysians

Malaysians generally are rude I think. They are quite selfish and lack courtesy as well as road manners, which is why for such a small country we have one of the highest accident rates in the world. I'm saying this because this morning while queueing up to pay the toll at the LDP plaza in Sri Damansara, there were so many drivers jumping queue you really feel disgusted. Granted there were also many courteous drivers patiently waiting in line, but for every 10 of the good ones there are at least 3 of the louzy ones. And when people say we lack manners we jump up a mile at the criticism.
Even in buses or on the train we see this bad behaviour again and again. We pride ourselves in being generous especially when a catastrophe befalls us... but what we are also is selfish, insensitive and lacking in common courtesy. I've seen teenagers sitting in the seats specially reserved for pregnant women and old people, not caring that an older person is standing up and holding on for dear life on the rails. Sometimes I wonder where the traditions that we Easterners are famous for have gone to. Did we lose them in our rush to become a modern and progressive society? Japan is also a modern and very progressive society but their people are still imbued in the old traditions that teach them to respect the elderly and to care for the weak.
I was in Tokyo just a few months ago and was struck again and again at how respectful they are to each other. The place where we stayed at - Asakusa - is slightly out of town. Maybe like a suburb of Tokyo but still a bustling little city of its own. Its not as busy as downtown Tokyo perhaps, but what I really liked about the place were the people. When they meet a friend they always bow to each other, talk for a while, then bow again before walking on. In the subway you see pretty school girls standing up to let an older woman sit. There is never any rush to get into a train, however crowded it is. Everyone patiently wait in line to get in. Even if the line is almost a mile long ( as when we were going to Tokyo Disneyland). Nobody pushes anybody when the train comes. Can't we learn to be like them?

1 Oct 2007

Musings

I was looking at some pictures the other day - old photos of my children growing up. Sometimes I wish I can see it all over again, experience again those wonder years. Looking at Rizal's pictures - at one month old, six months old and so on... life seems to have flown so fast. Now I'm here at his house looking after his child. He was such a beautiful child, I think all my children were. No doubt I'm being very partial but I do believe its true. Rizal was such a good boy - he hardly ever misbehaved. And so fussy about cleanliness. I remember how he refused to go inside my mother's toilet - it was wet and there were signs of mould on the walls where she didnt scrub them. He would step on my feet and refused to put his own feet on the wet toilet floor. Watching the village boys playing in front of my mother's lawn, he refused to join in despite cajoling and persuasions from the other boys - they looked entirely too dirty for his liking.
Wan however was the exact opposite. He would dive in regardless of the dirt and the wet. I remember his cheeky smile after a particularly grueling play session at Sequoia Park in California. He was so covered in dust you could hardly recognise him. More like a street urchin than my own. No child revelled in dirt as much as that one did.
They were all different in their own ways - the girls and the boys. Rizal had to grow up suddenly when we had Wan. He had been our only child for a long time - 6 years , then suddenly had to be pushed aside by this little squalling brat everyone said he had to love. Sometimes I wonder how he felt. At that time I was studying for my degree, so had very little time left for him.If I could change things I would change that aspect of my life and pay more attention to him.Looking at photos of him as a seven year old I see a scrawny looking boy, a bit sad in the eyes and regret not paying attention to him then. Even when we were in the States and Rizal was 9 or 10, I don't remember sitting down with him and talking to him of school and what he did - just asking him whether he had completed his homework. I really must have been a terrible mother I think.

28 Sep 2007

Bored out of my skull

This is the second week I'm here at Poh Ling's house taking care of my cucu. She's a doll but I do feel bored at times even though Poh Ling has said that I can make use of her pc and read any of the books I like. It is lovely... being able to sit and read... though taking care of Sophie is no joke. She's sleeping right now so I can make use of this computer as you can see but I sometimes wonder if my brains will shrivel for want of anything challenging to do.

Sometimes I wonder what other people my age do - apart from looking after their grand children I mean. I dont want to end up being a nanny to my grand kids. Repin asked the other day if I wanted to teach some English classes - that would be ok I think. But what I'd really love to do is write some stories for children. For this I need to be in Malacca permanently - not have to travel to and fro all the time. Writing,I think needs to be done in a quiet place - at least the kind of writing I want to do. Also here in Malaysia its so difficult to get your books published - unless its for school and are workbooks. Two years ago I gave Joyce my jazzchant which I had prepared for lower primary kids - complete with exercises and activities in case parents feel its not educational enough - and she still said that they couldn't publish it because there was no market. It's kind of sad that our people here don't appreciate good books for children and only see workbooks as reading material for their children. And yet, the ones that you see in the market (published overseas or in Singapore) are nothing much - mainly pictures.

26 Sep 2007

Sophia Meiyin Rizal


Looking at my little Sophie sleeping I can't believe she's two months already. In fact she's now slightly over two months. Chubby, large black eyes watching you and suddenly a smile breaks out. That's Sophia, my grand daughter. I feel so proud just looking at her. She's quite a smart little cookie too. The moment you try to put her in the cot she'll start screaming but if you quickly take her up again the screaming will stop - as if with a switch. She loves bathing, smiling happily when you splash her with the warm water and after her bath likes to take a little nap. Today for the first time she slept in the cot and not in her cradle where she normally sleeps. I didnt even have to sing her favourite lullaby - she slept in my arms and didnt wake up when I put her in the cot to continue her sleep.

16 Sep 2007

Kota Kinabalu



Kota Kinabalu has not changed much since I came here two years ago. Then, I was at the Beverly Hotel. This time however we stayed at the Promenade, closer to the waterfront. Its a relaxing place though and gave us time to sit back and just enjoy ourselves, catch up with much needed reading and walks along the waterfront. I noticed though that it is much cleaner, compared to the last time I was here. For one thing the waterfront is a pleasure to walk now. Clean clear view of the sea and islands beyond... and the apartments and hotels opposite enhance rather than detract. Even the Philippine market near the waterfront is cleaner too - the first time I was here it looked almost like a wet market, and the smells, or rather pong beat description!!

Repin and I spent three days here - relaxing and just lazing around. I even had time to go for a hairwash! We read, tasted the local fare and had a good time with each other.

A trip to Tawau


Last week Repin and I were in Tawau. It's changed so much since I last visited it. That was in 1996, when I was still working at the Exams Syndicate. Today its no longer a clutch of old tin roofed houses but a bustling modern city as can be seen here. We stayed at the reliable Belmont Marco Polo Hotel, just a stone's throw from the Philippine market, which is much as I remembered it. The place is busier than before however - there were at least two meetings going on when we were there. But its a comfortable hotel with a fairly good coffee house. We were there for only one night though - the next day we flew off to KK

31 Aug 2007

Malaysia's Independence day


Today Malaysia is 50 years old - so young compared to other major nations such as Britain, The US, France and so many other countries. But in spite of our youth we have done so much in a short time. I feel that our country has progressed in leaps and bounds and have escaped a lot of the mishaps that hamper other nations - such as disasters - both natural and political. Of course a lot more could have been done - for example we could have enforced the laws against the collection of leather back turtle eggs which are now almost extinct, we could have prevented the cutting of large areas of our forest reserves, we could have educated the people about saving the environment. Many of these laws are already in place but we dont really take them seriously. Lack of political will and the lackadaisical attitude of most Malaysian have contributed to that I think. We destroy our forests at random and kill our national treasures heartlessly. It is no wonder that today Pulau Tioman is losing its natural beauty and many of our reserves have been deforested.

Today, on Malaysia's 50th birthday I wish her peace and harmony for the next fifty years, I wish that our people would realise that we are indeed a great nation , that our various prime ministers have done their best to make this country a prosperous one. I wish that one day we do not have to fill in forms that delineate race and labels such as Malay, Indian and Chinese will cease to exist. And most of all I wish that the current corruption that is rampant in most government agencies is stopped. I wish you a very happy birthday, Malaysia.

28 Aug 2007

Sara


Yesterday Sara my youngest went back to Russia. I feel bereft and empty now that she has gone - the time we had always seem so short. This year we spent more time together because she had her practical in Malacca - at the GH there. We cooked together, watched silly movies and also spent whatever time we had going shopping or visiting my mother in law. I'm worried about her too - I know she's still with Neville - the Sarawak boy - but she doesn't say anything. I hoped shé'd confide in me but when I ask her she just says -its nothing. It makes me more worried. I just don't want her to be hurt ... or unhappy. Not that I don't like him - when I met him last year he seems like a nice boy. I just feel things will be difficult for them - mainly because of the different religions.

Some thoughts

Am in Malacca now - earlier had taken mother out of hospital and sent her back to Semabok. A few things are on my mind now - especially things that one of my friends commented about another. I know one of them is so ashamed of her old father she forbade the old man to participate in his granddaughter's wedding. That is such a sad and cruel thing to do. Sometimes I think people can be so cruel to their own parents - making them feel unwanted, dirty and hopeless. I hope my own children would never treat me that way - I'd rather die first than feel unwanted by my own children.

It rained earlier this morning but now the sky is a bright blue with patches of dark clouds on the horizon. This is what I love about Malacca - you can always see the sunshine even though it rains. I've just looked at the waterfall than Nan has repaired - he's even put some koi in. I did have some before but they all died a few months back. The water's clear now and he has even cleaned the pool for us. He put four koi - each about 3 inches in length . But I can't see the sucker fish I put in last week. Can't even see its dead body - it seems to have disappeared overnight.

26 Aug 2007

wedding anniversary


Sara managed to scan this photo of Repin and me taken at a restaurant during a wedding anniversary celebration. I think we both look so young and carefree. It seems like a long time ago when we had anniversary celebrations. Nowadays Repin is too busy to even remember my birthday. And then he only gives money. Sigh... I guess time changes a lot of things.
But I'm grateful that at least he still cares

24 Aug 2007

just thinking


Today I'm supposed to go to Kiran's wedding. Feel bad coz I can't go - for the second time. Mak is here in KL with us and she's not well so I don't like to leave her and go back to Malacca. Hope Ranjeet will understand. It's also another 4 days before Sara goes back to Russia. I'll miss her a lot... and although we've spent a lot of time together this holiday season I still feel its not enough. The time has passed so swiftly - It feels like she just came back yesterday and now she's going back already. She wanted cookies and lots of foodstuff but Repin and I are worried she may not get the things if we send too much foodstuff.

At times I feel so sad - especially when we all have a sumptuous family dinner and she's so far away. Knowing she has to cook herself after studying so hard also makes me feel bad. She's my youngest and yet right now I think she's facing the toughest time - what with the cold, being so far away and a foreign country which is so different from what she's used to.


18 Aug 2007

First College Ordeal

Its back to work again with my new teaching team - this time its a different objective and a bigger class. I've got 170 students - all from the First Residential College, UM. The first day I started with them was 4 August 2007, the first of many such Saturdays.

I did an ice breaker with them - getting them to introduce themselves and their friends. After that we tried a language game - something like Charades. Most students seem to enjoy themselves but a few came to me and say they didnt need the lesson.

16 Aug 2007

Chi Chi and Ginger - posing at sink?


cats
Originally uploaded by repin

Chi Chi and GInger, my favourite cats. When this picture was taken they were probably a few months old - looks like they're guarding the sink?


12 Aug 2007

long and busy days

Its been a while since I last wrote. Too much going on and at the same time my heart is back home in Melaka - wondering what's happening to my plants, my roses my fish pond.
Last week it was the OUM convocation - only one day but a really busy day. First thing on Saturday 8 December we had to be at PWTC for the convo. But our day began even before that - we stayed at Legend and the evening before we were there at the hall looking at the preparations. The rehearsal started around 5.30pm. Datin seri Jeanne came around 5.40 pm, looking rushed and a bit tired. She wore a simple brownish top - kurong like with harem pants. It looks good on her I thought. The rehearsal went well and we all went back after 7pm.
The convocation started at 8.30 am the next day.
8 -12-2007
The convocation has a lot of pomp and glamour! For a new university, OUM does indeed follow a lot of traditions wghich I guess is good - it helps gives confidence, an identity and pride to its students. But for us who have to sit through it all, it can be pretty boring. Luckily it ended at around noon. Then there was lunch which Repin and I had to host. Not a bad bunch of people at our table - we had Dr Mahmood from Egypt, Datuk Panglima and his wife - one of the Meteor board members, the VC of the Open University, Indonesia and his wife and a couple from the UN University, Tokyo.

5 Aug 2007

Last day of class for group 13, UM may 2007


DSCN5688
Originally uploaded by kayrepin

It was a sad day for most of us when this picture was taken. I had taught before - mostly school girls - subjects such as English Literature and English Language. But teaching these 'kids' have been the most fun for me- they have taught me not to generalise, to lump people into categories. It was a month of relentless teaching - sure - but it was also a month of discovering what a lovely bunch of kids I have in these young people: Fuad with his long hair, Azizi with his shy smile and Azhar with his cheeky grin. It was a real satisfaction when by the end of the fifth week I could hear some of them speaking in English - however broken it is. WE even had a small class party to mark the occasion - this picture was taken on the second last day of class before they received their certificates.