30 Mar 2008

LIlian the Israeli

Read an interesting article by Tunku Aziz today - in the Sunday Times. He wrote mainly about corruption - international corruption but I was more interested in it because of his trip to Israel. He had been invited by an NGO to give the keynote address at this international anti -corruption conference in Israel. But because of our government's policy of not recognising Israel he had a lot of difficulty getting a visa from Israel. They gave a lot of problems and finally he had to get the NGO to endorse him or he could not attend the conference. Even then he was still given the 100% check at the Immigration department upon entry, complete with body search (imagine a middle aged man standing naked and checked by others - how humiliating!). After his speech he wasn't questioned about his views on corruption - the Israelis wanted to know instead why Malaysia refused to have any diplomatic relations with them. Our diplomatic guy's answer was that he did not represent the Malaysian government, so could not answer for them.
When I was in Singapore last December I met these two Israelis. They seemed nice people - a young man and woman selling an Israeli facial lotion. I bought a moisturiser which Rizal paid for. Anyway to get back to the Israelis, they asked me too why they were not allowed to enter Malaysia. Maybe its time out government changed this - we should have diplomatic ties with Israel, if only to protest against their treatment of the Palestinians.
As for Tengku Aziz - the Israeli guy who asked him about Malaysian relations with Israel told him that many Malaysian politicians had kept money in Israeli banks. I'm sure he's telling the truth and all Tengku Aziz could say was that maybe that guy should contact the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Agency. I think our politicians, with a few exceptions ,are all just empty drums - "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." I bet few realise the need to be friendly with a powerful Israel, rather than be enemies. And the Palestinians are not innocent too - not by any reckoning. In fact some of the more serious fracas have been instigated by them. Of course my sympathy is with the innocent bystander who is not even aware or involved with the war. They are the ones who are suffering!
Talking of Israeli friends, when I went to a course organised by the American Academy of Higher Learning I met an Israeli girl called Lillian. I really can't remember her last name but we became rather good friends. We talked about the Israeli war with the Palestinians although many people didn't consider it a war because it was so ongoing. She had even been in the army for two years as part of her National Service and she had taken part in some border patrols. She said that as a whole many Israelis had nothiing against the Palestinians - its just a govt or political thing. I asked her about the camp massacres that occurred in the 1960s and 1970s and she said that had not real answer to that. I think we are a tool of our govts - just as many Americans are used by the US govt, or more particularly Bush. Lilian and I shared a lot of things in common. She was married and had two daughters, she's a teacher who is now working with the Israeli Education Ministry and we both share a love for books. She sent me an Israeli textbook for High School English and I noticed that the level is pretty high. She said that the status of English is Second language. Probably its a true second language, not like in Malaysia where we only say its a second language but its actually a foreign language.

27 Mar 2008

Revisiting Jakarta

Tugu Monas

The day in Jakarta was spent sightseeing. Of course we also did a bit of shopping, what woman won't? - but nothing like what we did the first time I came here four years ago. Then, I really went all out - of course at that time I was still working so money was no problem.
Anyway Jakarta has'nt really changed all that much, except maybe for one or two more shopping malls? We visited the old Tanjung Kelapa jetty where schooners used to stop. It's still used by small boats - huge to me anyway - and we saw boats from Sulawesi and the other islands unloading goods on the dock. Its not very big but there were at least seven or eight fairly large schooners anchored. As can be seen in the picture above, the port is still busy.
Aside from that we finally went to the Monas Park where the famed Tugu Monas stand proudly. The park itself is beautiful, with lots of trees. The guide told us that it's at least a few hectares in size and it takes a few hours to run around the park's circumference. I really love the huge old trees - makes the park look like its a little wood. We in KL are so unfortunate in this regard - we don't have a single large park to compare! Taman Tasik Perdana is so small in comparison although I'd say that it is definitely better maintained. And Tasik Titiwangsa Park is in danger of disappearing in the concrete jungle. It used to be a beautiful place for jogging - some parts of it still is - but much of it has been "renovated" to include buildings and oh so many other concrete things which we dont really need!
Jakarta - once we overlook the dirt and dust - is a beautiful city. Especially the areas around the Tugu Monas and the roads near the government offices. Many of the buildings remind me of Washington DC - wide tree lined roads and gardens on both sides of the roads. Its a place worth visiting, if only they take better care of their monuments.

26 Mar 2008


March 26 - 29 we were in Indonesia. Although we landed in Jakarta, we decided to go to Bandung first. From Jakarta to bandung the trip took us about 5 hours! This was because of the bumper to bumper crawl which we encountered the moment we left Soekarno- Hatta Airport. We were met by a couple of pleasant young men - our guide and the driver, Pak Uhu and Pak Roshikin.
Although it was a long trip, the journey was fairly pleasant and interesting. We stopped at the same rest area where we had coffee last year with Bu Lasteri. There was plenty to keep me occupied too - I had my latest Nora Roberts and Shasha was also reading her book. We arrived in Bandung early in the evening, around 8pm and after checking in and a light meal went to bed early.
This is my third trip to Bandung and this time around I didn't really find the things there great. Funny how after the first time, I find that I like Bandung not because of the shopping but more because of the quaintness of the city. I love the old tree-lined streets, the Dutch colonial houses with their steep roofs and the gardens. No doubt all these are not well maintained but that is the fault of the Indonesian government. Its a shame actually - they have all these beautiful monuments but they are allowed to rot and mould. But still parts of Bandung are really beautiful and appeal to the romantic in me. We stayed at a beautiful but old hotel called the Savoy Homann. The hotel has a very European ambiance - we had breakfast at the Garden Cafe which is set in a kind of square in the centre of the hotel. The palm trees and flowers make you feel as if you are eating outdoors when actually the whole setup is indoors.
We were in Bandung for only one day and had a quick round of shopping at places like Rumah Mode, Diaz and Cascade. I think I like Cascade best though did not really buy anything except a pair of jeans for Sarah and her bag pack from Le SportSac.
Late in the evening afternoon we went back to Jakarta and this time around the trip was slightly better. The road was less congested although the first part of the journey (from Bandung) the roads itself was bad. Not that there were potholes - but because it was a concrete road (not macadamised) it was very hard and bumpy and it felt like we were riding a horse. That was my impression anyway.

21 Mar 2008

More Sophie pictures

Here is my little cutie pie! She's now 8 months old and really cheeky too

17 Mar 2008

Post election fever

The new MBs from most states were sworn in. Malacca and Johor however retain their MBs and so did Pahang and Negri. Penang's new MB is Lim Guan Eng from DAP and Selangor's is some guy called Khalid from PKR. The state will have two new Deputies though - one Indian and one Chinese. Let's hope these new people will inject some new ideas into improving the administration of the state. I also hope that they will stop immediately the destruction of Selangor's forest reserves. Melawati Hill is almost completely gone now - just row upon row of houses... And the zoo? Caught in the middle of an urban jungle. Can the new govt stop this?
What I don't like about DAP is Lim Kit Siang's arrogance and I would say, narrow-mindedness in many things, namely the appointment of the Perak MB. And then he had the cheek to say Petronas should help to finance the building of the second bridge to Penang. Hello, does he think Petronas belongs to him or even that it belongs to the opposition?
As for getting rid of the NEP, maybe, just maybe its high time anyway. I never liked the idea of giving anybody anything freely. The people of my generation grew up without the NEP, and we did ok without it. Nobody gave us any special treatment or anything - what we got we worked for. I believe that today's Malay need to realise this. This is the scholarship group - that special group of young Malays who were given scholarships to go overseas so easily, just because they were Malays. I'd say that a lot of today's young polticians are also from this group - the group of thirty somethings and early forties. They are the ones who are so used to getting it easily from the govt and now they say no more NEP? Who were the ones who benefitted from the NEP I wonder.
The new MB from Perak was sworn in yesterday - I think the same guy that the Sultan recommended. Nizar something. All in all it went ok - the post election euphoria is calming down but the stock market is still down. Not a lot we can do there - just wait and see.
On the American front, Obama is still leading slightly over Hillary but the Democrats have a number of setbacks generally. First Hillary makes a goof about some racial slurs and another Democrat congressman was caught with his pants down with a prostitute. Very bad press for the party as a whole. I still hope the Democrats will win the elections - don't want to see another Republican up there. I hope they give Obama a chance. If he does win, then it shows the American public has matured. Even if Hillary wins too... for that matter.

14 Mar 2008

My English class

My first class which was on Tuesday 11 March went splendidly. The students, mostly 20 year olds, were involved, active and sometimes quite cheeky. I did vocabulary with them and enjoyed their antics in the groupwork. The second class also went well - we had reading comprehension this time - the passage that Rohani mentioned might be too tough for them. Actually it was a bit difficult I think, but we managed, with lots of guidance. The boy Aliff still did not come to class. I really wanted to see what he looked like because he sounded interesting in the essay he wrote. The other boys in the class were also active and energetic, and sometimes very cheeky too. The girls are really sweet. I think I can easily love them.


Got this from Rizal

Once upon a time...

Pak Lah, Najib, Shahrizat and Anwar were sitting in a KTM train heading up to Penang for campaigning. Near Ipoh, the train goes through a tunnel and it gets completely dark.
Suddenly there is a kissing sound and then a slap!

The train comes out of the tunnel. Shahrizat and Pak Lah are sitting there looking perplexed.
Najib is bent over holding his face, which is red from an apparent slap.

All of them remain diplomatic and nobody says anything.

Pak Lah is thinking: "These guys are all crazy after Shahrizat. Najib must have tried to kiss her in the tunnel. Very proper that she slapped him."

Shahrizat is thinking: "Najib must have moved to kiss me, but kissed Pak Lah instead and got slapped."

Najib is thinking: "Damn it, Pak Lah must have tried to kiss Shahrizat, she thought it was me and slapped me instead."

Anwar is thinking: "If this train goes through another tunnel, I could make another kissing sound and slap Najib again."

11 Mar 2008

The Tsunami Elections

When the elections were held in Malaysia we were still in Bangkok. We got news from friends and later on tv - BBC. The results were really shocking - I did expect BN to lose a few seats and for the DAP to win more than before, but these results were really catastrophic. BN lost 5 states in all, or actually 4 states because Kelantan was never BN's. But to lose Selangor - man, that was a real twist! I blame the corrupt councillors from Selangor state. And maybe even the MB. Well I guess its high time they realise what they are doing and how the people feel. In Penang and Perak too DAP won the majority for both parliament and state so the new MB will be from the opposition. They were sworn in yesterday. However there was a slight glitch from Perak. DAP didn't want the MB to be from PAS since they said PAS only won 6 seats and DAP won 18. Well, the constitution however does not provide for a non-Malay MB. And also MBs must be approved by the Sultan. Guess DAP didn't think the Sultan had any say. This one did have a say however and he didn't want a non-Malay MB. Not sure what will happen now - just hope things will be better!

10 Mar 2008

4th Day Bangkok

Well we're still in Bangkok today.Yesterday went to Chaktuchat or the Weekend Market. At first the girls didnt seem to be that interested about going there but once they were there, they didnt have enough time! One of the girls, Lillian bought so much she had to get an extra bag! Wow.
Chaktuchat is bigger and to me, seems to be better organised too. There are more places to sit, more cafes too. I wish I could have gone to the garden centre but even if we did go there my other half would never let me buy anything too big too carry. I did get some cushion covers, decorations and flowers. Also got some earrings for Sha sha and Sarah and my daughter in law. Wanted to get something for baby but the dresses here look cheap somehow. At the MBK plaza though they were quite expensive and Repin says to keep my money for Bandung. Yes that's another trip this month so have to keep. That's why I wanted to take up the teaching job at IPB but Rohani is making things a bit difficult with her talk of us using only materials prepared by them. I thought the modules are fine but we should also be allowed to use our own materials as we did when we were teaching at UM last year. I prefer that and it allows us to be creative too. I dont know, if she interferes too much I might give up. I can always get somebody to take over my place, I know.
Yesterday we passed the palace and I really think its so beautiful. I love the grounds anyway. We didnt go in, just passed by but from what I can see there are lots of green and the park is so huge. There's a moat all around it, with a fountain at every corner. I like the concept anyway.

8 Mar 2008

Third Day in Bangkok

I'm again left to my own devices in this place and feeling a bit bored. I've finished my work and sent the results to Rohani Hamid. Now I'm hoping to finish an hour or so at the pc. Tonight we hope to be able to go to Sukhumvit where Repin had his shirts tailored last time. We tried to go last night but I think we left it until too late and could not get a taxi there. All the taxis refused to take us to Sukhumvit so I guess today we have to try to go a little earlier.
Last night we went to Central Plaza where we had pizza. Well in a city where we find it difficult to find Muslim food what else can we do? So I guess pizza was better than nothing.
Today is Election day back in KL. We're getting news in trickles, either from the Internet or from Repin's colleagues. It seems that BN has lost a few states. Samy Vellu is out totally, losing so many votes to PKR. In Bangsar, Sharizat has also lost to Annuar's daughter
The rest of the OUM group had gone for the river cruise organised by the Secretariat of the conference. We could not go because Repin says my name is not included. Anyway I saw the river Chao Praya on the way to the Central Plaza - ots nothing much to look at. Though like all cruises they decorated the boat with bright lights and buntings and according to Rose, one of the OUM lecturers, she enjoyed the music. The food was nothing great.
Must go out soon to take some pictures - otherwise I'll have nothing to show for my Bangkok trip coz we didnt take a camera with us last time.

7 Mar 2008

Suan Dusit, Bangkok

Lately I do seem to be here there and everywhere. Last week I was in Kota Bharu, Kelantan watching the war of banners and buntings in the pre-election campaign. It was fun to see the PAS people giving the dirty on their arch enemy BN and yet maintaining a "gentlemanly" demeanor through it all. I even met the great Tok Guru himself - we shared a flight to KL. He was on his way to the Nikko Hotel to give a ceramah I think - saw the announcement in the papers. The great man doesn't seem so great in person - small man, quiet and quite unobtrusive. PAS seem to be really all out this time around to get a better crowd. I sincerely hope they get more seats, esp in the Federal or parliamentary constituencies.
And now here I am at the Suan Dusit Place in Bangkok. Life is really interesting these days. Bangkok is as fascinating as ever. The last time I was here was some years ago, in 2006 I think.We came here for a short holiday with Rizal, Poh LIng and Shasha. This time its because of a conference for Repin - an e learning conference.

From what I can see, Bangkok is more progressive - there are more highways and they seem to be constructing a rail connection to the airport. They already have their own metro link or LRT as well as the aero train to avoid the horrendous jams. But even the jams are not as bad as they were some years back. When I first came to Bangkok in the early 90s there was'nt even any LRT or highways. The jams were really bad then - it could take hours just to go to the city from the airport. These days its much faster, thanks to better transportation and communication systems. Bangkok seems to have a lot of shopping centres too. I think there are many more new ones now compared to the last time I was here. But we all still prefer Chaktuchat and the Night Market Bazaar! We went there last night and I bought a few stuff to take home as gifts as well as for myself. Things are not as cheap as they were once though. Thailand too is having inflation following its tail I see.

The Suan Dusit is like a hotel in the university. Its not very big but serves its purpose all right. Like the UiTM Hotel and Residence Hotel it's attached to the Suan Raghabad University and is quite far from town. To go to the city centre from here it takes us at least forty minutes, if there are no traffic jams. I prefer the previous hotel that we stayed at - it was somewhere near the city centre and was called The Mandarin International, though I doubt it belonged to the famous Mandarin group.

I wish though I could go to Chiangmai and Chiangrai in Northern Thailand instead of always Bangkok. It would be cooler there now I think. Its really hot here now - and you can hardly see the sky - its a perpetual grey up there!

3 Mar 2008

something to think about

(Found this song on Rizal's post - I like the words.)

Why are there so many
Songs about rainbows
And what's on the other side
Rainbow's are visions
They're only illusions
And rainbows have nothing to hide

So we've been told and some chose to believe it
But I know they're wrong wait and see
Someday we'll find it
The Rainbow Connection
The lovers, the dreamers and me

Who said that every wish
Would be heard and answered
When wished on the morning star
Somebody thought of that
And someone believed it
And look what it's done so far

What's so amazing
That keeps us star gazing
What do we think we might see
Someday we'll find it
The Rainbow Connection
The lovers, the dreamers and me

Have you been half asleep
And have you heard voices
I've heard them calling my name
Are these the sweet sounds that called the young sailors
I think they're one and the same
I've heard it too many times to ignore it
There's something that I'm supposed to be

Someday we'll find it
The Rainbow Connection
The lovers, the dreamers and me

Kota Bharu, Kelantan

My most recent visit to this charming town was just last week. Went there with the hubby for a function, his by the way coz I no longer have any "functions" to attend. It was on the occasion of the opening of the new OUM Learning Centre in KB. And KB is really like a town celebrating a carnival! Wish I had my camera but Shasha wanted it for her Blythe meeting which meant I couldn't take it. When we arrived at KB town from the airport it was already midnight but the town was all lit up and there were still a lot of people on the streets. There seems to be war of sorts going on - a flag war! Barisan Nasional flags and buntings as well as PAS' filled the areas between the lamposts, on the trees, lined all along the roads and even a long the river. So we passed areas of green flags, areas of blue flags and on occasion the blue and red flag of Keadilan or PKR. The election war is really on in Kelantan though according to our driver the "war" is a very gentlemanly type with both sides being gentlemanly and courteous! Ha ha! Unlike Terengganu it seems where the parties show their true colours.
Besides the elections. life was really a bustle in KB - from what I can see. Its no sleepy little hollow like we in the west coast seem to think. Even at night we can still see shoppers on the streets and in shops and you can see that the economy is not idle here. They even have GIANT Hypermart and TESCO. Well from the man on the street, what more do you want? So it does seem as if they don't really need to have BN?? And according to somebody at the hotel where I stayed, BN will have a hard time against PAS. Hmmm... I wonder.

On the second day of our stay we were taken to Rantau Panjang for a little bit of shopping> Didnt really know what to buy there - I don't need any more clothes and there really seem to be nothing much that I wanted so didn't really buy a lot of stuff. Just some kain pulicat for Repin and maybe our neighbours in Melaka.

Sunday - busy day for us. Repin's function started at 8.30am because the Minister had to leave by 9.30 for another function. I didnt go but went with Puan Sri to the market - Pasar Siti Khadija where we bought kaftans, some kain and some scarves. When we came back to the hotel Datin Sri Rosmah had just arrived. Wah she really is fat! Just short and fat and round! Hardly look like a TPM's wife. Maybe she needs to diet.