28 Aug 2013


A day in Paradise
"Let me always remember the refreshing gift
Of a walk in the woods,
A day by the sea,
A moment of solitude "


A trip to the Maldives

Soft white sand, clear blue skies and the sea 
The water chalets where we stayed for 4 nights
Last week Repin and I followed the Open University of Malaysia delegation to the Maldives to attend a convocation - their third to date. This is the branch campus of our OUM in the maldives and all together 77 students graduated this time around, most of them doing Business Administration and a few in Education. 

The trip there was by Sri Lankan Air which was surprisingly good. We were in business class and the seats were very comfortable while  the food was great. We landed in Maale around 4.30pm and were quickly whisked off to Paradise Island Resort, about 15 minutes away by boat. It was a speed boat so the ride was swift though a bit bumpy. All around me were tiny islands, some inhabited, many uninhabited. At the resort we were met by the Liaisons officer,
Fatimath Nadja Ibrahim who would be with us throughout the trip.

This was the beginning of a wonderful 5 day 4 night trip, full of new experiences and sights. The first day there, which was a Tuesday was a free day and we explored on our own, walking on the beach, exploring the whole island (which was about 2km by 3 km only) and swimming in the shallow lagoon made by the corals surrounding the island. The water was so clear one could see the bottom very easily and sometimes this could be deceptive in that it may look shallow but can easily be 6-7 feet deep. We could see the variety of coral and other types of fishes swimming gracefully in the water. In the early morning, walking to the restaurant for our breakfast we saw some baby sharks and even a bay manta. Even a baby can easily be at least 3 feet in length! I was so excited at the sight I nearly dropped my iphone to catch their images!
A school of dolphins passing by our boat

On the third day after attending the convocation we were taken to see a tuna factory, where the tuna were caught, graded and processed before being exported to Europe. However I did not stay to watch because I was overcome by the sight and smell of raw tuna being processed I had to leave. That night we saw the feeding of the sharks, which was an awesome sight. It seems that the sharks are offered free food every night  by the seafood restaurant at 8pm. So every night around 7.30pm the sharks would assemble before the restaurant hoping for a free meal! It was a sight I wont forget easily - 10 or more sharks fighting for the tidbits thrown to them by the kitchen staff! 
A view from the shore 

1 Aug 2013

A new interest - Percy Jackson!

My girls have been trying to get me to read their fantasy books but for a long time I resisted. I don't really know why - after all I did read all the Harry Porter books and I loved them. I also read Madeline L'Engle's books and even the Narnia books. A few months back I started reading The Hunger Games and got so engrossed I began looking for the continuation until I had read all the books in the series.

Last week I finally read the first book of the Percy Jackson series and immediately got hooked! It's a bit late of course - those books have been out for years - since Sarah was still in school and both Sarah and Shasha have been discussing Percy Jackson and his exploits for years and years. When I ask them they will say - you ought to read the book Mum - you'll love them. But somehow I never got around to reading them because I always had my own books to read. I read Harry Porter because the girls were just so excited about the books and there was the movie of course. 

Well anyway I have started reading Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series and I must say they bear up well. Percy is not as great a character as Harry Porter but he is just as lovable a character. The idea of mythical creatures being real and that the Greek Gods have children with mortals is rather interesting but not really new or gripping. Perhaps it's not fair to compare the Harry Porter books with that of Percy Jackson but one cannot help it. Both the main characters are teenage boys and the books began when both boys are the same age - 12 going on 13. But where Harry seems to be a more developed character, Percy seems more like a shadow of him. Percy Jackson is the son of Poseidon and all the years he was growing up he thinks that his father had died and that his mother, just a normal mother. However one thing about Percy is that he always gets into trouble and is often thrown out of one school after another. After an episode in which he sees The Furies at a museum visit he is again thrown out of school but this time his teacher, Mr Brunner tells his mother to send him to a camp called Camp Half Blood. This is where Percy finds out that he is Poseidon's son and that he has been accused of stealing a Lightning bolt belonging to Zeus. 

Camp half Blood is a bit like Hogwarts and all the children there are also children of the gods, like Percy. He makes friends with Athena's daughter, Annabeth Chase and a young satyr Grover and together they set out on a quest to look for the lightning bolt. 

It is a good enough read - I enjoyed it and was fully engrossed reading the adventures of this young demi god Perseus. But that is mainly because I have always enjoyed reading the Greek Myths and its quite fun to imagine Olympus as on top of the Empire State Building and that pegasus or flying horses exist or that the entrance to the underworld is in Hollywood. 

Ramadan thoughts

Time is really flying - before I realise it the end of the year will be here again and it will be 2014. As for Ramadan, it is almost over. As with other Ramadan days, we are busy preparing for the end of the day. the Iftar or breaking of fast. Here in Malaysia, as I think it is for the rest of the Muslim community in the world, Iftar plays an important part of the fasting. Most Muslim families eat together for this the most important meal of the day. Sometimes we invite under privileged children from the orphanage nearby to join us in this meal. Ramadan means so many things to so many people but mainly it is a gift from Allah to us, who in his mercy gives us this month to do good and to perform all the prayers that are both obligatory and non obligatory. Every good deed performed in this month gets double or triple the reward which is why many Muslims who can afford it try to do all kinds of charitable acts. Of course it goes without saying that these charitable acts should be carried out throughout the year, not just during Ramadan. However, if done during this month the reward is greater. 

In Malaysia however, a lot of Muslims get rather carried away by the fasting itself. Every evening people throng the Ramadan bazaars to buy food for Iftar. Here you can see all kinds of foods - from traditional delicacies to western dishes and it is hard not to be tempted to buy them.  Often we end up buying too much and the food is either thrown away or we engorge ourselves in order to finish it. Which just goes to show that many people still have not got the principle of Ramadan itself correct. 

Some of the selection seen at the Ramadan bazaar

A kebab seller 

Ramadan does not only mean physical fasting or abstaining from eating and drinking. It means abstaining or keeping oneself away from all kinds of temptations - those of the eyes, of the soul and of the mind. One has to fast physically, emotionally and mentally so to say. Which means refraining from doing harm to others - animals included, from thinking bad thoughts and from feeling anger, hatred, lust and other sins of the soul. Whether a lot of Muslims actually carry out this is a different matter. Just look at the clashes and violence in Egypt, Syria and Tunisia, just to mention a few countries. And the saddest part is that the violence increases during Ramadan.