Monday, October 30, 2006

Raya Aftermath

Raya Raya Raya. Selamat Hari Raya, Jalan Raya, Balai Raya

Literally - Raya = Besar. So Hari Raya = Hari Besar... Big Day to mark the end of Ramadhan.

In spirit, it's about.... hrmm... House decorated to the hilt. Special raya foods. Baju baru. Kuih Raya. Duit Raya (for the kids, at least) Forgiveness. Togetherness. Family....

Well, I think it's mainly about relationships. Especially family ties. It's the time when we take the trouble to go all across the country (or city) to visit people we don't often meet.

When we were young, we tagged along with our parents visiting people we barely knew. We took solace in playing with other kids and getting duit raya. As we grew older, we started communicating with the elders and learning to deal with life.

Currently, I visit relatives with my sister, paying our respects and keeping family bonds alive. It might not be enough, meeting people once a year, but I guess it's better than not at all...

I wouldn't go all the way down to Singapore if not for my 'darlings'. I'm so annoyed with the ridiculous things Singaporeans put us through just to visit once a year... Autopasses that need to be updated with our car road tax info and expires after five years. And I got a saman for parking at "season parking area" where there are no prominent signs... Urgh. Abang Ali told me to ignore it and fight back if they send me a letter. Hrmm. Menyusahkan betul.

This year the Suratman clan had a get together at Cik Jak's place in JB. We had the obligatory makan2 with original lontong, sambal goreng, lodeh, and so on and so forth. We had tahlil for those who were no longer with us, and doa selamat for Pak Ngah who was hospitalised. Of course, gatherings are filled with bantering and laughter when our gregarious crowd gets together.

Thankfully the drive back was smooth and we got home quite early. I'm pretty tired out after a week of constant munching and driving all over the place... It's not quite over, though. There are clothes to wash and things to straighten out.

There'll be more houses to visit in the weekends, mainly friends; but at least the high ranking elders have all been covered already. I don't think I'll have the energy to do a full blown open house because it usually means I'll have batches of people coming all day long... Maybe a simple tea on Sunday afternoon will do.

To all, Selamat Hari Raya & Maaf Zahir Batin. :-)

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Make room for the gray

Do you like gray? I don’t. It’s such an inconclusive colour, neither black nor white, neither here nor there. . . Grey is… moody. It’s kind of depressing. It possesses not the vibrancy and passion of red. Nor the coolness of blue. Or the cheer of yellow. As opposed to the calm of green.

Yet it’s undeniable there. Something which exists whether we like it or not. As do grey areas in our society. Reality. Red-light districts, bohsias, bohjans, gays, lesbians, affairs, sugar daddies, GROs, fanatics, heretics, Ayah Pin, Mama Ais, drug addicts, etc, etc, etc. They exist, whether we like it or not.

So why the insistence on sanitizing and sterilisation of these very real, though unpalatable, issues? Isn’t the first step to solving a problem is acknowledging that one exists? The bigger a problem is, the longer it will take to solve it. So why do people insist on an instant cure for a terminal disease? Sweep it under the carpet and all is well again. If you can ignore the bulging mound in the middle of your hall, that is…

There is an unfortunate tendency of “clean” and “pure” people to condemn the ‘damned’ - those who have sinned, those who had crossed the line into the dark side. They demand that these people must instantly denounce the demons and return to society. But will someone choose to return to a society who has marginalised and shunned them for their mistakes? It’s basic psychology. They fail to understand that these people did not choose the dark in a heartbeat. Is not darkness the absence of light? So where were the ‘pure’ beings when their kin was in need of light to show them the way?

I was in this conversation with a new group recently. They were lambasting the sins of “Gubra”. Without even watching it, they discussed the sinfulness of the whole production. And I had no choice but to defend the concept of the movie that tried to bring into awareness the grey areas that exist in the background of our sheltered lives. Those who were forced into prostitution had little choice in the matter.

From a totally different perspective, grey lightens the burden of darkness and shades us from the blinding brilliance of whiteness. It has potential to move in either direction. All it needs is incorporation of the healing powers or forces of destruction. It is our choice – to help or to punish. Which one would you make?

Monday, October 16, 2006

What Kind of Coffee Are You?

You Are a Cappuccino

You're fun, outgoing, and you love to try anything new.
However, you tend to have strong opinions on what you like.
You are a total girly girly at heart - and prefer your coffee with good conversation.
You're the type that seems complex to outsiders, but in reality, you are easy to please

Source: Asma's Blog


Change is normal, isn't it? Everything changes. Life, work, feelings... Change of address, change of scenery, some even more drastic ones...

Where were we ten, fifteen, even twenty years ago? What did we care about? What did we want? What did we think about then?

Some change is good, some not. Yet one of the constants is life IS change! Some things refuse to change. Some change so subtly that one day you wake up surprised to see what has changed. But if you go too long without any changes, it would be pretty odd, don't you think. Maybe some things shouldn't change, but it doesn't mean you shouldn't change the way you do it...

All said, sometimes you just need to either accept it, or do something about it. Accepting is hard, sometimes. But if you try hard enough, it does get done, eventually... :-)

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Trip

Guess the bit I hate most about intercontinental travel is jet lag. It hits me pretty bad, unlike boss who can be back on schedule the next day. Hrmph. He's a robot, I say... I generally have trouble shutting down at night and starting up in the day... cheez. Being exhausted and dehydrated and cramped on a KLM seat don't help, either...

Arrived in Stockholm last Sunday morning and took the Arlanda Express to town, as advised. Checked in to the hotel, but my room wasn't ready yet. So I asked if I could shower somewhere and was shown to the spa. Went downstairs to the sauna bathroom and found the smallest pool ever! At 5m x 5m it could have been a wading pool or something. Took a swim anyway until I got pening from turning around so often. Heh! Shower was reminiscent of the TKC shower stalls - no doors, curtains only. Chee... lucky the place was deserted!

Once I freshened up, left my stuff at the hotel and went a wandering. They gave me a map and directions and off I went to Gamla Stan (Old Town) to look see look see. The weather was nice at 14C. Got gazillions of photos of the fabulous old buildings and interesting plants, plus a few birds. The photo above shows one of the bridge entrances to the town which is located on an island. The town is full of quaint shops, chocolate boutiques, restaurants, souvenir shops, whatever. It's lovely! Took my time strolling the streets and eventually went to the pier to catch a boat over to the Vasa Museum.

The public boat was a convenient way to cross the lake to the other island where the Vasa ship Museum was located. It houses reconstructed parts of an ancient Viking vessel and its treasures. I was too reluctant to pay the 80 SEK (eq to RM40) entrance fee and ended up in the free Museum nearby. It was interesting, with stuff like fashion trends and old doll houses on display. But the thing that amazed me most was....

...the toilets and locker room!! It was the coolest thing I had ever seen :D Afterwards crossed the street to the park opposite and watched some mandarin ducks
swim about. It was lovely just to be outside. Much later, I took a bus back to the hotel. Room was ready and I gratefully settled in for the night.

The next day, I visited the mosque before going to a new development which was supposed to be very sustainable and environment friendly. Got lost and stumbled across a bank of recycling bins. Cool stuff, for people like me, at least... Got to Hammarsby Sjostad at abt one and had a nice chat with Josefine, the girl in charge there and later walked around the area. It was a very nice development. Also liked their very efficient public transport system.

Tuesday and Wednesday were conference days. I found it to be not too interesting. Maybe not enough new things or experiences, perhaps. Flew out to Netherlands Wednesday night itself. Stayed over at Oshani's place and took the train to Nix's place in Sittard in the morning.

Nix is a very, very old friend from our primary school days. She's in the middle with her kids Maryam and Zacharia here. Yup, that's my other Zach :D We also refer to them as Yami and Adik. Just spent the day hanging around the house with a brief excursion to the store in the evening. Found it colder here than in Stockholm although thermometer shows 18.5 C. Must be the continental effect.

The next day went shopping for foodstuff in Germany which was actually 10 minutes drive away. Then we went in the other direction to Belgium to look at clothes. Didn't buy anything, just enjoyed the view and the outing. Too soon, we had to head home and pack my bag. Seems someone's mulut is masin 'coz i brought back almost as much as I took there...

Left at 4.00 to catch the 4.16 pm train to Schiphol. Alas, I kena again with the Dutch train problems. Dah la all announcements were in Dutch... Mujur almost everyone spoke English. Terpaksalah tanya diorang every time an announcement is made. This time, we had to take a bus between the 2nd and 3rd stations. Nasib baik the driver saved me a seat. maybe I looked like I was ready to do battle kot... Heh! Then I had to change trains in Utrecht instead of Eindhoven as scheduled. The worst bit was lugging my heavy bags up and down platforms and trains since there were few lifts and escalators available. While fasting, I might add...

Got to Schiphol airport a little late, and again had to carry my bags long distances in the airport itself. Grrr... Could not check in using the machines and had to wait a long time for the guys before me to get sorted out. It was the usual routine with security checks and stuff before boarding. Flight was largely boring since I sat between an Ozzie who might be a little hard of hearing and a Norwegian who did not seem to notice I existed. Chee... Prefer the nice Indon guy I sat next to on the flight out. In any case, KLM seats are cramped. My buka puasa meal and sahur was one and the same due to the time factor. I didn't have much to drink and had a hard time fasting in the mega-dry cabin air. Almost 12 hours in a darkened cabin and hardly moving is not my idea of fun!

Finally arrived in Malaysia and eagerly awaited my luggage at the carousel, only to discover that it had been left behind in NL!!! AAAAARRRGGGGHHHH!!! B****y Dutch!! Dah la I terforgot to move my house keys to my daypack... Adoi... Had no choice but to report the missing luggage and ask Abang to pick me up coz he had a spare key. Ended up lepaking at Abang's house sampai malam. Conked out the moment my head touched the pillow and woke up at noon the next day still quite exhausted. A nice massage would have been great, if I knew where to get one.

Spent Sunday at home waiting for my overdue bag. By the time it arrived in the afternoon, the fruits had spoilt and the cheeses were soft. All my clothes were stained with berry juice and smelled funny... Ended up with more washing than I liked, but had no choice there.

So there you go... 2 extra days recovering from my "ordeal". Sigh. Hope to be back on schedule by tomorrow... Should go now. Ciao!!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Hello from Stockholm

It's been a wonderful 3 days here in Stockholm. The conference is dull as dishwater, though. Could have been more exciting. But I managed to visit a new sustainable housing development and checked out their public transport system. Food is expensive as well as internet connection. Sightseeing on the other hand, has been great. Flying out to NL tomorrow night. Will update when i get a proper connection. I'm using the hotel computer for the time being... :D