31 Dec 2008

Farewell 2008, welcome 2009

I was watching a re -run of "Man of the Year" - remember that one? The one in which Robin Williams was elected President of the United States through a computer glitch. It got me thinking about a lot of things - some of the things he said reminded me so much of Obama ? About people wanting change and they didn't care what kind of change it was, as long as there was change. This brings me to Bush and the shoe throwing incident. I don't like Bush - I believe he is the cause of so many things that went wrong in the world today. If he had just let Iraq alone - it wouldn't be so miserable now. I don't know whether people in the US understood what's going on there before Bush attacked the country. He claimed that there were "weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq and that it was planning to attack Israel. After they had destroyed Iraq and left it in pieces which until today could never be put together again - they found nothing incriminating about Iraq. No weapons of mass destruction were ever found anywhere in the country. And did he apologise to the Iraqis for destroying their country? No . He had "regrets" but no apologies. Why? To apologise would be to admit he was wrong of course. So I don't blame the frustrated Iraqis for hating him and all he stood for. I think at least half of the world hate him in fact. Hence the shoe. I only wish it had hit him right there in the face. He would have deserved it. No, he derves much more than a shoe thrown at him actually.
Another thing Robin Williams in his role as Tom Dobbs, president elect in "Man of the Year" said was "politicians are like napkins - they ought to be changed regularly". Do I agree with that sentiment! Especially here in Malaysia.
In this country, once a politician is elected, he stays on for ever. And do they stay on and on and on. Some, even after they are not elected, insists on staying on - Rafidah Aziz, Samy Vellu to name just two. Then there are those who do get elected by fairly narrow margins - Mohamad Taib, Najib (who will be next PM mind you) and so many others. I guess you can't blame them for wanting to stay on. After all its power isn't it? Oh of course they all say that they have the country's best interests at heart. They all do that but we the rakyat know better. Even the opposition leaders - do we ever get to see a new set of faces? It's always the same - Karpal Singh, Lim Kit Siang and his son , and now Anwar and his daughter. We hoped after the last election things would change but I see nothing has changed. In Penang, Selangor and Perak where the opposition rule I haven't seen anything substantial as yet. Little unimportant things like street names make headlines now and then. I wonder about the justice system; and the Altantuya case come to mind. Will she ever get the justice she deserved or will she just be one of the cases that gets pushed into oblivion. People tend to forget easily. But come on - she came here to Malaysia looking for somebody called "Razak", and some time later her body is found in pieces - bombed out by substances that could only be found in the police force. A mystery that. And Razak Baginda, the man she was suposed to have had an affair with, the person she came to KL to see, is set free - because there is not enough evidence. What do you make of that?
And Najib himself. How is he connected to the case? Or is he?
So here I am saying farewell to the year that was and saying hello to the year that will be. I hope again that I will not be disillusioned by our politicians and one day our country will be born again - refreshed. I'm a Malay, but a Malay that has Chinese, Indian, Pakistani and Afghan blood in her. So I do want to go for that Bangsa Malaysia idea. My daughter -in -law is Chinese, my grand daughter half chinese, 1/4 Malay and 1/4 Pakistani. What does that make her? The law insists that she be termed Malay. But how can we call her Malay when she is only a quarter Malay ,if that? So why must we have the race thing at all? Why can't we just get rid of that column and just put one thing - citizenship. We should be proud to call ourselves Malaysians first and whatever race we are as secondary. Will we ever be able to do that? And I'm not talking of the Malays. I'm also referring to the Indians and Chinese who jump a mile high the moment someone mentions we have a single education system. Why not if we are sincere about wanting to have a united Malaysia? Thailand has only a single education system; so does Indonesia. The Chinese in Indonesia even have Indonesian names - Rudi Hartono for example. We don't even have to go that far. I only want a single education system for us all - one school for all the races in this country. No vernacular schools. Is that too much to ask? The various languages will be taught - just as Singapore has now. Mandarin and Tamil are taught in schools for those who want to learn them. Malay should remain the national language but English should remain the language of instruction, especially for Science and Mathematics. Then and only then can we slowly go forward towards unification and maybe in 50 years hence, we can say we have a bangsa Malaysia. But the other races should not ask the Malays to lose their priviledges and expect to keep theirs. Having vernacular schools I feel is a priviledge. What other country in the world has this? How fair is that?
And what do I wish for 2009? A better world for my grandchildren, that's for sure. A safer one too - better quality air, better cared for environment, a unified Malaysia, no wars in the world. A dream? Perhaps, but if Martin Luther King can have his dream - and look at US now - I think his dream has been fulfilled; then so can I.
On a more positive note, I wish a happy and prosperous 2009 for all of us. Let us hope that the economic outlook will improve and that the world will indeed be a better one.

28 Dec 2008

Batu Berendam, Malacca

Chi Chi, posing inside a shopping bag.

Its the long weekend - Christmas plus Awal Muharram so repin and I took the golden opportunity to go back to the home of our hearts - Batu Berendam. After being away for more than a week I worry about my plants, especially the ferns which need watering at least twice a day, and of course my roses. They are all fine; however one little fern did not win the game against the dry wind and the pitiless sun. I found it scorched to death in spite of being under the cover of the verandah. Efforts to revive it are still being carried out but I find it a real struggle. The good news though is that all my koi are doing very well and the water is extremely clear, one can even see the tiny dots at the bottom of the pond. I also found not one but a whole family of moss eaters - the bottom dwelling brown coloured fish that lives on moss. NO wonder he pond looks clean! So what happened I wonder. When I thought it had disappeared and gone into the pump system, it probably had just gone there to multiply! So now I have two pairs of these sucker fish instead of a pair.

Our travelling felines are also down here with us, enjoying their freedom and galloping on the lawn, rolling in the grass or hunting in the "wilds of the garden." Here is a picture of Ginger, our orange tabby, now a full grown two year old and her friend Chi Chi, a mixed Persian and Siamese. We've dubbed these two the travelling felines because they are the two who have been going up and down between KL and Malacca. Ginger, the quieter of the two is a placid cat - she just closes her eyes once she's in the carrier and relaxes the whole way. But Chi Chi is noisier and sometimes even rolling around in her carrier, whining to be let out.

26 Dec 2008


Trying to seduce Pixel into letting her "comb " him.

"Reading" her tellytubby magazine

"Hi Lala!"

I didn't want to post anything initially - just lie low for a few days until the new year.But then I got some new pictures of Sophia, my grand daughter. She's very much into the tellytubbies right now and loves them so much will watch a programme right through. In fact the moment you switch on the tv she'll hand you the remote and in her own inimitable way tells you to turn on the dvd. Then she'll pass you her tellytubby tape and insist that you switch it on. This has been going on for the past few months - this teletubby fixation. She laughs out loud and nods happily at the antic of the tellytubbies. So when her dad went to Dubai recently he bought her Lala, the yellow tubby. It's now her favourite friend.

24 Dec 2008

Tea party for my English class

Tomorrow being a holiday and most of my students saying that they may not come next week, I decided to give the tea party today after all. So after 4pm, having made my order to Halle Catering earlier, I stopped the class and told them we're having a surprise party. They seemed surprise anyway, especially when the caterer came in with the tea and cakes. But after the initial surprise they tucked in and we all had a jolly good time, with tea, doughnuts and currypuffs. Even the shy and quiet Afiq came out and helped himelf. Latimin and Azmi chatted up the ladies, cracking jokes and generally enlivened the atmosphere. Most of the women in my class are quite shy actually but opened up as time went by. This can be seen especially Zaiyah, Siti Zawiyah and Hasimah. I really enjoy teaching them - they seem quite eager to learn and to want to speak English. And I think they are improving too - if only we can continue the class.

This will be a kind of farewell for me - I may not see some of them next week for they said they are taking their annual leave.

18 Dec 2008

UM class

Oh we had a terrific time today in class. For once most of the students came - 26 of them. Towards the end of the lesson I introduced another word game, a bit like scrabbles but using cards on which the letters had been written. They were organised into three teams with the team forming the most words (the longer the word the more the score) winning. They enjoyed it so much that we went into "overtime". That was a fun day - for me because I could see them enjoying themselves and for them because they felt they had accomplished something too. For 30 and 40 + - for once I think they really let down their hair and behaved like students - trying to beat the other teams in getting the longest words. Jeering at the other teams and cheering their own - they seem to enjoy themselves.

Teaching is so satisfying when I can get my students to enjoy themselves. It's easy to do that with kids, because I think the younger they are the more eager they generally are to learn a language. And for this group - working adults - they have been forced to take up this course mainly to meet the requirements of their service. Civil servants have to fulfil a set number of hours every year to upgrade their skills and for many civil servants in Malaysia, they are required to learn English as a foreign language. This group of students at least have the basic level - they can converse in English, albeit with some mispronunciation and language errors. I think that they are so much better than some teachers that I've talked to. At least they can use words like "enhance my vocabulary" which gives me a warm feeling. And when they show their interest and ask me questions, I feel good. I wish we had more time though. No doubt their bosses can't really spare them for two hours a week for a month , but if we can have this for 6 months, maybe we can make some real inroads. So far I've been empahasizing on the spoken part of the language - pronunciation and lots of speaking exercises, getting them to give short speeches, explanations etc. But I do think they have improved. Or at least they are more confident. Zaiyah once said that at work or at home they hardly spoke English which is why it has deteriorated so much for many of them. I told them - use it or lose it. It's the same for any language.

Connected to this topic is the current debate in parliament about retaining or rejecting the teaching of Maths and Science in English in primary schools. For 5 years Maths and Science have been taught in English at the primary or elementary level. So far, as results from the Primary School Assessment (UPSR) shows, it has helped students improve their English. Statistics also show that students prefer to answer the questions in English rather than Malay, the national language (53% only but its early days yet). I think the powers that be should not intefere in education and detractors against this policy are only trying to gain political mileage, or maybe as in the case of the Chinese school Council, afraid to change and lose their power over the Chinese. When I was in school English was the medium of instruction and I never felt that my own language (Malay) was at risk of being lost. English is a powerful tool in any international business enterprise - whether you like it or not. Being able to communicate and better still manipulate terms in this language would be an advantage. And as a nation we are slowly but surely losing this advantage as our children's usage of the language decline. There are other advantages too - I think it levels the playing field in a big way. No one can say that this or that person scored because the test is in his own language. This time the language is neutral.

16 Dec 2008


Back home at last and back at the grind. My other half has gone off to another assignment, this time at Bukit Tinggi Resort. Another workshop.My English class expanded today (3 new students) and four came back from an extended holiday. Teaching adults who are working is so different from teaching young adults who know that getting a job depends on their English results. These students don't really care that their English is not good, especially the men. They come and go as they please - especially when they are already 40 years old and not going anywhere in their jobs. I have a tough time getting them interested - they don't like grammar and yet its so essential. They enjoy the games I do with them, they're quite competitive too. But we can't be playing games all the time can we? No doubt some of the games are based on grammar but we have so little space in the class and we can hardly move. If we had the seminar rooms at the Linguistics Faculty it would be better.

Yesterday we played a board game introduced to me by Alby. Its a little like monopoly, only difference is we buy vowels and consonants to form words. The person with the most number of words wins. Its a great game to teach vocabulary and the class enjoyed it. I think next time I'll introduce Boggle to them. But I'd have to have at least 4 sets of Boggle which would not be cost effective.
Today I have to teach them writing. The syllabus says I had to teach them only business letter writing, but since most of the students do not write business letters they want ordinary letters. I told them we could do stories instead and they agreed. So it'll be story time today.

Hanoi, Vietnam

Street scene in Hanoi
Ha Long Bay

Our pretty assistant, Hien

Ha Long Bay (UNESCO World Heritage Site)

lunch offering

Repin, the intrepid traveller

Young girls at an embroidery factory, Hanoi

12 Dec 2008

Hanoi, Vietnam

One of the colonial buildings, remnants of French occupation Night market scene
Remember the show - Good Morning Vietnam? Starring Robin Williams as the DJ who entertained the US troups while they were serving in Vietnam.

11 Dec 2008

Hanoi, Vietnam

I'm in Hanoi and right now am taking a break in the Intercontinental after a morning of walking around the city. Its a lovely city, if you forget about the dust and the dirt and the traffic. It has a slightly European ambiance about it, though frayed at the edges. Like an elegant old lady who is still beautiful despite the lines and look of tiredness, Hanoi has a charm that is different from other Southeast Asian cities. There are lots of trees and there are parks at almost every corner, forming a cool avenue for pedestrians. Underneath the brassy look of the newer buildings - all glass and modern high tech - the older Vietnam peeks through and this has a charm reminiscent of the French Quarter. The roads are very narrow with thin ,tall houses on both sides. Land is at a premium I heard and that is why most of the shops are narrow and go upwards. We walked through the market street ( can't spell out the Vietnamese name) and gawk at the wares for sale. At the fresh produce section there are all kinds of fruits and flowers - they are so colourful. There are huge bunches of orchids, you wouldn't believe they are so cheap. I notice strawberries in large baskets and ask where they are from. The only time I've seen strawberries in baskets that big was in LA - at the 32nd Street Market. And that was in Spring only. The guide tells me they are from thenorthern part of Vietnam, where it is cooler. There are passion fruit, ciku (brownish oval fruits that we can also get in Malaysia), mangoes, rambutans, all kinds of oranges or citrus fruits - large ones, very small seedless ones and even oval ones. There is also a fruit - a hybrid - that is a mixture of pear and apple. It looks like a pear (oval) but tastes a bit like an apple.

Hanoi is also called City of lakes because there are many many lakes all over the city. Our hotel, the Intercontinental, sits on one of the largest lakes in Hanoi, the West lake. There is an East Lake and a South lake. The Westlake is so big, I thought at first it was the sea. You can't see its banks. On our walking tour this morning we came across at least 3 other lakes - still fairly large by my own standards. And all these lakes are surrounded by parks and beautiful walkways. But as I mentioned earlier the dust, dirt and traffic sort of dulls the beauty of the city.

This is our second day here. When we first arrived yesterday we were met by the dapper Mr Ben Taat, a Malaysian entrepreneur residing in Vietnam and married to a Vietnamese. A gentle, soft spoken man he is the one who is organising meetings with various agencies for OUM. Today they met with the President of a tea exporting company as well as some members of a private university. Mr Ben Taat owns a restaurant here in Hanoi among other things, and we have been eating at his place. Food is delicious and very Malaysian ( so typical of us - we always want our own food when we go abroad). Its easier anyway because of the halal thing.

6 Dec 2008

When the rains come

Its happened before and is happening again - killer landslides in the Ampang -Ulu Klang area. This one happened early this morning - about 3.30am I heard. When will we ever learn? Four people died in this recent landslide; 14 houses destroyed and a number of casualties. One of the people who died was my vet - yes the one who looks after our six cats! She's the most patient person I know and always caring about the well being of our cats, especially Apin. Its such a terrible waste of a life. And yet when we look at the history of landslides in our country - its a tragedy waiting to happen. After the terrible landslide of Highland Towers in 1993 where 48 people died, I wonder at anybody wanting to live anywhere near a hillslope. And this area - the BUkit Antarabangsa area is really a landslide prone area. The local council should have banned any further development of the slopes or even on top of the hills.
Malaysia is well known for its lackadaisical attitude towards the environment and I believe this is the outcome. Every time it happens, and small landslides occur every year at this time of year - all the big guns will come out to the site in their bush jackets and files; every year they will say no more development on hill slopes". And every year another landslide will occur. Only this time more lives have been sacrificed on the altar of development and greed. There is just no political will to make it stop. Trees are still being cut on hill slopes; forests disappear before our very eyes. Red earth flow downstream like tears on the craggy surface of mother earth. Most of us silently scream - when will this desecration stop? From my own highrise facing the Melawati Hills where once I see a sea of lush greenery, I now see cranes and skeletons of buildings newly built. The hills are no longer sacred. Developers are perennially greedy - I don't really blame them. The local council should not have approved any development on the hills. They should have reinforced the older developments or made sure the developers did. What happened in 1993 should have been a warning but it was ignored by everyone until another landslide occur and more families lose a child, a mother or a father.

4 Dec 2008

parting with a dear old friend

The Nissan x trail - my favourite 4WD.Last week I had to finally let go of my beloved X trail. To me the X trail is not just a car - its part of the family. Especially for me - sending Sarah for tuition classes, picking Shasha up sometimes, going back to Malacca - its always been reliable and very very comfortable. But my other half prefers a new car - he doesn't like any cars older than 5 years!! I'm lucky its only cars and not wives! What if he wants to trade me in for a newer model? Hah! Our new car arrived yesterday - a Nissan Livina - nothing like the X Trail. Its a more compact MPV (or so they claim) but driving it I prefer my X Trail. I really really love it and miss it - especially that now its the rainy season in Malaysia. You can imagine driving the smaller Livina through KL's flash floods. With my X trail I can just go through the waters without any worry. Now I dread going home late in the evenings because that's when the rains come and the floods await.

Going home to Malacca with the cats is no big deal - all the cages can go in the huge boot, as evidenced in the recent Hari Raya where we took home with us all 6 cats, including Apin and Momo.

30 Nov 2008

Ainal's wedding

On a bright Sunday morning, 30th November 2008 Ainal, my nephew got married to his love, Shikin, a sweet girl from Merlimau. As aunt, and the eldest one at that, I had to be there - as chief of reception awaiting the bride's entourage. Everything has been ready since the day before - the tents are up, the food is being cooked in the back yard by hired cooks and the bride's dais all ready. Suddenly I realise there are no flowers on the main table. What a disaster! How could we have forgotten that? So its rush rush rush after that. Twenty minutes to go before they arrive and we had to run over to the nearest flower shop to get flowers. And its a Sunday. Will they open? No, its not open so we had to go back to plastic, naturally. Hmm... is that an oxymoron?
So here we are finally and the bride is late. Its almost two when she arrived. The food was getting cold, most of the guests had left. BUt they came - the whole entourage of 40 people.
But things got better immediately after the bride came. All dressed in pink, she looked lovely and sweet. Despite the wait everybody smiled and came forward to get a closer look. Ainal too looked resplendent, dressed in pink baju melayu and samping. Amir was the best man, looking solemn enough to be the groom himself. Things went well considering the late start.

28 Nov 2008

What I'm reading now

I've just finished reading this very insightful novel - "Things I want my daughter to know" by Elizabeth Noble. Its about a woman, a mother of 4 daughters. She has cancer and knows that she is dying soon. So she writes letters to each of her four daughters - the eldest a 37 year old who is afraid of commitment, the second is married but not happy, the third runs away from her problems by travelling to far and distant lands and the youngest, a fifteen year old who is still at home and preparing to do her GCSE as well as look after a sick mother. The writer goes into the personal lives of these 4 women and see how their lives inter twine, how they each go through a period of black despair and how they all survive it by helping and depending on each other. This is by no means a deep book, if you're looking for something freudan or something classic. But I think most of us will find something for ourselves in this book. There is also the story of the father or the step father - Mark. He is Barbara, the cancer victim's husband and the ideal parent in a way. How he copes with his daughter (the 15 year year) and his step daughters' grief is something I can really admire, his own grief notwithstanding. A good read for a lazy weekend but very thought provoking too.
The other book I'm reading now is The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga- winner of the Man Booker Prize for 2008. A hilarious book; well written and full of irony about India's modern society and especially Bangalore.

Garden in Batu Berendam

A corner of the garden in Batu Berendam. The ginger plants are on the right, next to the Bird of paradise flowers.

My Ginger border

Last week I bought some dahlias - bright yellow ones and also a deep dark red. Both of these I planted in pots because there isn't that much space left. I don't want a cluttered garden and Repin prefers to keep the lawn as green and flower free as possible. So if I get any more new plants they'll be potted ones. The dahlias are growing well I think. At least they're blooming now. Hopefully they will still bloom in January.

I've designed a border - at least its a start. I'll have some primulas I think - maybe pink and white ones because of the colour and I'll mix them with the marigolds. Will the colours clash? I like marigolds because they're perennials and easy to maintain and so are primulas.

So far my lillies have not bloomed except for that one occasion when one of the white ones sprouted some blooms. Can't wait to see them actually because I really don't have any idea what they look like. They were given to me by Norlee and hers too have not bloomed.

27 Nov 2008


Sometimes I wonder at the stupidity of our Islamic Council. The latest thing is the Fatwa on Yoga. Can they really think that we faithful can be so easily lured to other religions that we have to be guarded against ourselves? Its so ludicrous as to be unbelievable. So now they are banning yoga for Muslims because we may go astray and start reciting mantras as we do our exercises. Sigh... sometimes I feel ashamed of our Islamic Council. Don't they have anything else to do? There are so many things they can try and do and here they are - banning Yoga for Muslims. Maybe we should suggest some activities for them to do for a change.

22 Nov 2008

projects at hand

I was reading through a friend's post and he mentioned having two projects - one keeping his kindergarten going strong (that is really adventurous of him) and another was improving his house and garden. Then I got to thinking - what projects do I have? I don't really have any projects going on have I? Oh... wait a minute - I do. In fact since I retired I have several on going projects. One is of course my garden - I'm trying to create an English- style garden in tropical Malaysia. Ambitious? Sure. Impossible? Hmmm we'll see.

My second project is myself. Yes, I'm trying to improve myself. Not physically (that is an impossibility),but spiritually. I have sadly lagged behind where reading the Quran is concerned. I'd love to really be able to read the Quran in that beautiful and musical way that I heard when I was in Mecca in 2006. I really envy the Hafeez who can read it like that. It's so gut wrenchingly beautiful it pulls you. Whenever I hear someone read it like that I feel so touched I want to cry. It's that beautiful. But then I do cry easily. When I see something, especially nature, that is so awesomely beautiful I get a little weepy and there is a little catch in my heart. Nature at its best does that to me.

I lived in the states (California) for 3 years a long time ago. There is no snow in Southern California where we used to live, and if we wanted to see the beautiful fall foliage we had to drive up north. But I loved the Autumn months and used to wish we had changing seasons here in Malaysia. Driving down to Malacca from Kuala Lumpur, I see the lush green forest as we pass by. The green of the trees are all different. There is a very dark, almost greyish hue to the trees in the deeper part of the forest and a very light, almost yellowish tinge to the tops of the trees for those which get plenty of sunlight. We may not have the gorgeous blazing colours of Autumn nor do we have the dazzling mix of delightful colours in Spring. Our forests look slightly subdued. Some people have even commented that it is kind of boring - to see sea after sea of lush greenery; but there is a mystery about it, a certain air that lends to itself a hint of dangers within. It beckons. The jungle is never bland. You may not realise it but it has a beauty too in its quiet way. But my heart does not ache with love and pride when I look at it as the mountains in Sabah does. Here where the highway winds itself uphill, to almost 5000m above sea level, where tree shrouded mountains loom above me and far below I can see parts of the highway winding here and there... this gives me an ache because it is awesome in its beauty - pristine and untouched. It's so beautiful it becomes poignant and I hope fervently that the greedy hands of man does not reach here and never will.

But I digress. I was talking about projects and my third is my koi pond. Oh yes... my koi died a few days ago. Due to my ignorance and impatience no doubt. BUt I'm learning. So I got a few more koi (my sister Mariana gave me 6 yesterday) and I bought some tilapia which are indigenous and more hardy than the foreigners. Anyway my third project is underway. The pond is clear now and the waterfall running smoothly. Nothing much to do except feed the fish now and then and clear the leaves from the pond. As to my English garden - well that too is underway. I've planted the roses. So far I've elimimated the many enemies it had - the snails, the fat little white grubs (eeuww) that suck out the juices from the stems - nasty little vampires that they are. I'm going to get some border flowers from the nursery later today, after I've had my quran reading tuition. So that's my project Ak, if you're reading this post.

I wish I'm a good photographer - so I can snap some pictures. Most of the ones I have were taken with my phone!

16 Nov 2008

Frustrations of koi rearing

I never seem to learn. This is the second time all my koi have died on me and this time its totally my fault because I was so stupid! Yesterday seeing that the pond has not been cleaned for a long time I decided to clean it. My maid was ever ready because she had wanted to do it for weeks but I was a bit worried. Well.. I should have stayed worried and not clean the pond because half an hour later - the koi started having problems. Two of them were gasping for breath and I quickly caught them and transferred them to another container. But they died anyway. I just cannot understand it - I did everything I was suppose dto. Drained out half of the water , topped up the water with tap water which I had de-chlorinated and still they died. Six koi and two jelawat, two long tailed gold fish and some baby koi. Sigh.... when will I ever learn? I think next time I shan't clean the pond. Just leave it like that. The water was still clear... it's just that I wanted to get rid of the algae.
The dahlias were beautiful of course. Especially the yellow dahlias - so bright and cheerful. And the hibiscus are simply gorgeous. I"m not talking about the roses. I think I'm done with roses for the time being.

10 Nov 2008

The times of your lives

I'm watching Oprah's show and she's got Paul Anka and Shelly Hack as her guests! He's still amazing and so is Shelly Hack who acted in Charlie's Angels. She also advertised the perfume Charlie - the woman every woman wanted to be in the the 70s!! I remember watching that advertisement decades ago, and admiring her confidence, vitality and easy charm and glamour. How I loved her and bought the perfume because I wanted to identify with that woman. She became the icon, no doubt American, but still an icon of the woman. She was always wearing pant suits, had these luscious slim long legs and that gorgeous shoulder length hair that shines as it swings. And imagine that - she is still that Charlie girl when she came on Oprah. I was so thrilled to see her walking into the studio with her long lanky good looks still intact.

As I watched Oprah's show on American classics - or American treasures, I realise how much of American culture we have absorbed. So much so that what they consider classics, I think many of us consider as our classics too. These are "hotdogs", Mickey mouse, the song "My Way" by Frank Sinatra, Coca-cola, The story of The Wizard of Oz, Pizza, McDonald's and so may more. Who of us have never identified a certain time of our life with any of these American icons? Many of us have read the Wizard of Oz and loved the characters of the Tinman, the Lion and the Scarecrow as well as Dorothy. Many of us, especially those of my generation have loved Elvis Presley's songs; we all wish we could go to Disneyland, many of us love coca-cola. My children remember Kermit the Frog and Big Bird of Sesame Street, I remember eating hotdogs for the first time, going to McD for the first time, wearing my first Nikes, belting out "My Way" with our friends and feeling that the song is really written for us? We don't think of them as belonging to the Americans only but also to the rest of the world and that is the real American success story. They have managed to sell their culture to the rest of the world. But what about us? What about our culture? Maybe many of us know more about America than our own culture.
We have our P. Ramlee, Sudirman, Sharifah Aini. WE have old movies - classics - like Seniman Bujang Lapok, Ali Baba Bujang Lapok, Bidadari and so on. These are much loved oldies, a classic for our children and their children one day.

7 Nov 2008

Meeting old friends

Time can't separate, us nor distance. We have been apart for more than two years but when finally my two close friends and I met for a belated celebration of our respective birthdays, time and distance had no meaning. Being the only one not working, I undertook to drive the distance to their workplace so that we could have lunch together. First there was a general exchange of gifts and loud expressions of oohs and aahs... I love this and ooh this is lovely. In fact so interested were we in our gifts that we ignored the waitress who was waiting for us to order our meal. PC gave me a really glamorous looking "diamond" bracelet. It was so beautiful I immediately fell in love with it. G bought me an Estee Lauder make up set. I gave them earrings and necklace sets from Tiffany which PC immediately put on. It matched nicely with her rather chic dress. I thought they both looked gorgeous. G looks so much better now, compared to two years ago. I think she's more healthy now and PC of course is always well dressed.
Friends, especially girlfriends are very important. Everyone should have a friend, or more. Someone you can talk to, tell your problems to, share a story with, a joke or two with. I know that my life when I was in the Exam Syndicate would have been a living hell if not for my close friends such as Mon, Hanin,Tim and Baiti. They made things more bearable and now when I think of my experience there, I remember only the good times - of laughing so much until my stomache hurt, of going shopping at the Mall, lunch at the Bangsar, going for pre-tests to all the rural places and getting lost in the jungle ( Felda Sg Paloh) and arriving in Raub!!

Friends are life's best kept secrets - they help you, they give you a lift when you need it and they scold you and advise you when you need it too! PC and Gurnam helped me a lot, especially when I was doing Statistics during our M. Ed years. I know that without their help and their push I would never have finished my thesis!! So here's a toast to all friends - may we all keep them and may we have friends always.

5 Nov 2008

US elections

Barrack Obama - the first black president.

Yeah! Obama won... he won ..he won... he won! Its the most exciting US elections I've watched. I wanted him to win and I'm so glad he did. Mc Cain was gracious in his loss and gave a lovely speech. Now Barrack Obama and the rest of the democrats have a lot to do to gain back the trust and the belief of the the rest of the world that Bush lost.What does Obama's win mean for the rest of the world? To me its a confirmation of the democracy that America has always touted. But I also think this win has given millions of under-priviledged peoples and minorities all over the world a hope, a light for the future. Here's to hoping he will keep his promises, that he will bring about a change for America and that he will re start the peace process in the Middle-east.

4 Nov 2008

Fairy tales and fables

I find that there is a dearth of stories from Malaysia in English, or if there are any written they are written by mainly foreign writers with either a jaundiced view of Malaysians in general or not a very accurate one. However what I really feel sad about is the lack of writing about our fables and fairy tales. Granted there are very few, compared to European and English tales, but we do have them. One of my favourites is the story of The False Princess, which is very similar to the story of The Goose Girl which is a German folk tale. In this story, a princess was journeying to India to meet her betrothed. However since her mother who was supposed to accompany her was ill, she was sent overseas with her maid. The princess however was given a beautifully carved mirror to take with her on the journey. The mirror we are told is magical and would be a proof to the Prince that his betrothed is the true one. However during the long journey, the maid found a way to break the mirror and thus the princess was left with no proof as the her identity. Today we hear of so much identity thefts but this in fact is no new. It happened even as long ago as the 16th century when this story took place! The maid pretended to be the princess and later when they arrived at the palace of the prince even told the prince to behead the princess so that she could at last be secure. However without the maid's knowledge, the princess had another magical item with her to identify herself and that was the betrothal ring which she had kept hidden. Of course the ending is a happy one, like all fairy tales and the evil maid was sentenced to death. This story was told me by my grand aunt. There are so many more stories but I've not seen any of these stories in print. Maybe they were a part of the old oral tradition. Certainly when I was young, it was fairly common for us to listen to these folk tales at my grand aunt's knee - so to say. We'd hear them normally at bedtime or at the end of a long day when pleasantly tired, we'd all lie down and wait for my grandmother's younger sister or "Nek Nyah" to start her stories. She'd always start with these words - "Pada masa dulu..." which translated would mean Long ago...
Other stories are " Bawang Putih bawang Merah" which was made into a film by Cathay Kris, Badang the first malay super hero, Tuan Putri Pucuk Kelompang which is a fairy tale about goddesses or a fairy from the sky and many more. maybe one day I'll try to remember them all and write them....

2 Nov 2008


Today I'm looking after Sophia for a while. Rizal and Poh ling have gone to see a musical. I was a bit apprehensive at first wondering if she would cry for her mummy but after a few tears in the beginning she settled down and we hyad a fairly fun time together playing games.

Here are some pictures of her at the playground downstairs.

1 Nov 2008

In Singapore

Rose mugs! What a find. And the cat mug, given to me by Elle, is gorgeous. The cat really looks like Chi Chi.
I've been in Singapore since last Thursday. Travelled as usual by Oddysey coach and arrived around 8pm. Brought my Jodi Piccoult with me and finally started reading it even though I've had it for almost 2 months. Its called Nineteen Minutes, about a 17 year old who had been bullied since he was 5 years old. Finally he could not take the bullying any longer and one day took some guns to school and started shooting the people who had been bullying him for so long. What made him break and did his mother take it? How would the judge rule it ? She had known him since he was born, had known his mother since before he was born and he had been her daughter's best friend in elementary school. These are the questions you want to know when you read the book. Is he guilty? Would you blame him? If you had been the one bullied day in and day out - would you be able to accept it ? Hmm... a lot of questions.
This is one of the things I liked about Jodi Piccoult. Her stories always have two sides - the perpetrator's and the victim's. In one of her previous books - Vanishing Acts we look at a very personal crime, in which a father kidnapped his daughter, to save her from a mother's neglect. So, in kidnapping his daughter, taking her to another state and bringing her up to believe that her mother had died, did he do a wrto correct another wrong? Should he had left her with her alcoholic mother and a potentially abusive step father? There is no black or white with Jodi Piccoult. Life has a lot of grey areas and there is no truly right or completely wrong when we deal with people and relationships. And that is how she shows it to us.

In Singapore I went to this wonderful craft shop while out with my daughter in law and Shasha. I just love the prints they had - roses! Especially the ones on something as practical as a shopping cart!

29 Oct 2008

What I love

I love waking up to the sounds of birds chirping near my window, hearing the tinkling bells of my two cats as they run upstairs to greet me the moment they hear my door opening; I love watching my koi swimming in the pond and gobbling up the food pellets I throw; I love looking at my garden - the white purity of my jasmine, the rustling of the bamboo as it moves in the breeze, the soft gurgling of the waterfall as it falls gently over the manmade pond and the bright beautiful faces of my hibiscus - white, pink, orange and yellow. I wish I could see the bright happy smile of my grand daughter every day - surely her grin alone would banish all clouds of gloom!

Like Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, there are times when I feel like bursting into song - "All I want is a room somewhere... far away from the cold night air... in some enormous chair oh wouldn't it be loverly...lots of chocolates for me to eat... lots of coal making lots of heat.." And talking of Eliza Doolittle, My Fair lady is one of my favorite films. I love the play - Pygmalion and also the movie that it was turned to.

I think here in Malaysia we have so much that we take everything for granted. We forget sometimes that the peace we enjoy can be taken back by words meant to hurt and disrupt. We all say that we are against racism and yet when we are the favoured race we tend to close an eye and that is something that I hate. In the 60s and 70s when I was growing up in Malacca, race is something that is just there on paper. We never thought of ourselves as Malay, Chinese or Indian. I grew up in a small village in Malacca. My Chinese neighbours had two children - Ah san and Ai lee - both teenagers to my 8 year old self. And yet when my mum had to leave me alone in the house, she'd tell Ah San, a 15 year old Chinese boy to look after me. Sometimes when it rained and my mum could not take me home from my primary school, she'd ask Eddy or Chong - both 17 year olds - to go to my school in her place. Its the innocence of those far off days that I love. Days when I could go to Ranjeet's house and stay over for lunch, with no... or walk with Visalachi to the library to borrow books and then stay at the foot of St Paul's Hill to talk and play without worrying that someone would come to kidnap us - a couple of 8 year olds.
I wish the world can stay safe so that my grand daughter may enjoy her childhood as much as I did mine.

28 Oct 2008

Thinking aloud

Generally Malaysia is a great country. We don't have floods, earthquakes, volcanic erruptions or even cyclones. The tsunami that hit us in 2004 was so mild compared to the one that hit the coast of Sumatra. Yet, its as if we Malaysians want to kill the goose that laid the golden egg. We brag of our multi -ethnicity and talk of our ability to live in harmony all the time. Its right there in many of our advertisements showing all the races living together happily. But is all this just what it is - a brag? Something that is as real as the plastic plates we love so much. Just yesterday I saw in the papers (Utusan) the criticism of so many supposedly educated people about Penang's proposal to use all main languages on the road signs. What is so wrong that we cannot use English, Malay, Chinese and Tamil on our signages? How long are we to cling to the old and much used phrase - negeri Melayu? Will we actually lose our Malayness if we have the 4 languages on our road signs? Think of how easy it would be for our foreign guests if we have signs in English. In Singapore, not only are the signs in the four languages, all announcements at the MRT stations are in the 4 main languages. We teach our children to respect the other races in our country but in action we are not really showing them a good example. Just tune in to the parliament sittings either on the radio or on tv and you'll know what I mean. If we want Malaysia to survive, we have to start thinking as Malaysians and not as Malay or Chinese or Indian. Saying that we are a multi -ethnic nation and yet not giving a chance to the other races to be heard or seen is as good as being a hypocrite. Sometimes I wonder what we are afraid of. Is it losing our language? I doubt we'd lose it since the schools are teaching it anyway and it is the national language. Is it our cultural superiority? That is again not the answer because by learning and having more languages at our disposal we add value to our culture rather than detract. So what is the problem?

23 Oct 2008

OUM Raya Day

As usual OUM hosted its raya on a working day. This time around, probably to save costs, no singers were invited, which is probably a good thing too because the last time they invited outside singers, one of them wore a shamelessly tight outfit you could see everything, including her map of India. Ha ha. The flowers arranged by Prof Shaari were again fantastic, though Puan Sri commented on the fans which were held up by white, cloth covered poles. She said they looked like batu nesan or grave stones and that it affected her mood. However where food is concerned there's nothing fantastic about it- everything was run of the mill. The weather was good - no rain, though it had rained heavily for the past few afternoons - but as can be expected it was humid. Sweat trickled down my back. I bet no trace of makeup or lipstick can be seen anymore on my face. There was a fairly large crowd, though from what I heard they were mainly from the admin and other staff. Few lecturers turned up. I wonder why. Don't they feel they belong? When I was working I enjoyed mixing with the other staff and here I see that the academic staff hardly mix at all. Except the Heads of course. I sat with prof Zoraini, Prof Rahmah and Dr Widad as well as Hanin who is now the Director of CIDT. We were entertained by the staff some of whom sang very well. There was also a Bhangra group. They sang a few Hindi songs and also performed a Bhangra dance for us which was really energetic and fun.

18 Oct 2008

How does your garden grow?

I'm back in Melaka and things are just great. My roses however are not doing so well though the orchids are showing their true colours. I still don't know many of them - I guess orchids will always be strangers to me. My true love is always the rose, in spite of the many difficulties growing them. The problems with the roses seem never ending. First its the little white maggot like caterpillars, then it was whitespots, now I don't really know what's eating them. I've sprayed them with an insecticide but the problem has persisted and now the buds look stunted and brownish. If anyone who knows how to deal with them is reading this, please please tell me what to do! This time around none of the roses look healthy, though the white one is not too bad. The lllies on the other hand are doing great! I've pictures to show them off but will have to wait until I get back to KL to upload them.

I was watching the news last night and the news about the plundering of our Forest reserve came on. To me it isn't really news - this has been going on for years and only now the authority finds out? One does not need any great intelligence and a research team to know that anybody who can, is stealing our logs, taking reserve land, killing the forest and goodness knows what else! Admittedly Jandabaik is a bit off the beaten track but if you are in charge of the forests, wouldn't you be there going around, flying over the forest reserves tracking poachers, and log thieves or illegal land acquisitions? Even in Selangor I think a lot of our reserves have been taken over by illegal immigrants. There's this area near the MRR2, just across the Putra Terminal that I notice has suddenly bloomed into a mini township with largish bungalows and semi-Ds. Whether they are legal or not we don't really know but they do look haphzard and very illegal -looking. In fact they look very much like a group of squatter homes due to the nearness and lack of proper drainage systems. Also they have been cut into the hillslopes - much of which I feel pretty sure belongs to the Selangor government. Doesn't the Gombak District Council realise what they are doing? If the land is legally owned, the way the buildings are put up definitely look unsafe and illegal anyway. They really look like a squatter settlement, albeit with brick houses. Can somebody tell me what they are please?

Generally Malaysia is great country. We are so blessed in that we don't have any natural disasters and please don't say that our floods are a natural disaster! You have not seen the floods of India and China or even what hurricanes can do in some parts of the world. And yet its as if we want to kill the very goose that laid the golden egg. Instead of fighting with each other - in politics anyway - I really wish the Opposition would look at the REAL issues - pollution, environment degradation, poor education planning (esp the curriculum), poverty, improving our infra structure and the list goes on. Not how many MPs are leaving BN for PKR, or what Hindraf is doing... When BN lost their seats in the last election it shows that the people are fed up with its lack of action with all the problems that have been plagueing us all this while. But now that PKR has been given a chance to do something... what have they done besides gripe and boast and generally create a scene during the parliamentary sessions? Even Anwar is just acting - Nst -Oct 13-Act 1 scene 1 (front page news). Come on Mr Opposition, stop boasting and start working! Show us that you do care for the country and that your party is not just for you to take revenge against the BN for what it did to you before!

15 Oct 2008

Birthday blues

My birthday has come and gone - no big deal. Well at least 3 of my 4 children remembered and my daughter in law can be said to stand in for her husband I suppose - the one who forgot to wish his mum happy birthday. Shasha bought me an ABBA cd and two of my favourite authors. Repin gave me a new phone to play with. And OUM sent me some flowers - courtesy of Datin Teh, I suppose. Beautifully decorated by Prof Shaari. So what did I really want for my birthday? NOthing much - just my old Longines watch which had gone missing for some time. I have not given up hope anyway - I'm sure its somewhere, waiting for me to claim it back. But I do feel heartsick when I think of it, because no way is Repin getting me another Longines. I know I've been careless with it - just leaving it wherever I like. Once it was in the pocket of my jeans, where I had put it for safekeeping when I went to take my ablutions. Yatie my Indon maid, put it in the washing machine without checking whether there's anything in the pockets and washed it! You can imagine how I felt. Luckily for me though, it was quite tough enough - it was still going strong when Yatie took it out after the first spin cycle! So you can take it from me - the Longines does have 9 lives and is as tough as an elephant. So I do want it back and hope it is somewhere around the house, though I've searched everywhere, even between the cabinets and all my handbags.
Talking of birthdays - Peck Choo called and since I missed that, she texted me a birthday message. Feel so rotten coz I didn't remember her birthday until it was a week later - and it was already Ramadan. Much later Gurnam also sent me her wishes and repeated wanting to meet. Hmmm... sounds familiar right? Anyway I told her I'm always free - just make a date and I'll be there. Like last year and the year before, she's the one who's always busy.

13 Oct 2008

Sophia at 14 months

And her generous smile See her cheeky face ! Engrossed in mum's purse

Sophie is now 14 months, almost 15 months old. Its amazing how much she has learnt in just a few weeks.

She definitely knows what she wants and shakes her head if it isnt what she wants. Loves books, Disney playhouse, Teletubbies and Noddy. Enjoys music. She goes to some gym thing to learn how to play and to mix with other kids and enjoys the pool. I think she's really the greatest kid anyone can have.