Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Trip to Bandung 2

The next morning we wondered how we were going to fill our day. We have finished our shopping and I was too tired to go anywhere else. We then decided to go to Rich and Famous again, hoping that I am well enough to get more clothes. Heavily drugged with Panadol ( ha ha ), I found an Esprit shirt and 1 Mexx shirt and more baju for our kids. Since Bandung has a cool climate Dan asked me if I was okay for a walk. Sure, why not. I actually feel better when I am walking than when I was being coped up in the room. I was also feeling rather uneasy because usually I left the kids with my husband and since both of us are together, who is taking care of them ?

We walked and had a lovely time. We ate at Pizza Hut ( no surprises there ) which turned out to be so much better than the Pizza Hut at home. Why ? More extensive menu. We tried the food that is not sold in Malaysia. They were superb. I drank a chilled melon juice and Dan drank something called Strawberry Surprise. Yum…..

I felt terrible after lunch and Dan readily took me back to the hotel where I slept fitfully again and barfed and barfed and barfed. Penat….. I was too tired to go out and we ordered room service. The food was good but I couldn’t keep anything in and barfed again. It was the longest night.

I woke up dizzy and disorientated. I was so dreading the flight back home. When I opened my eyes, all I could say was “ Panadol Indon ni tipu. Tak jadi pun … “. I was popping the pills like nobody’s business but I was never relieved, not even slightly relieved from my pain.

In the cab to the Bandara, I begged Allah SWT to spare the agony of flying. I am never a good flyer to start with. I need to take anti-motion sickness pills every time I fly. I recited Al-Fatihah and Surah Kursi many, many times while begging Allah to give me a good 2 hours. Luckily, the airport had upgraded its services and offered a First Class lounge for passengers for a mere RM 15. Dan took it without much thought.

I was so relieved to see the room very comfortable and that the service included breakfast. I couldn’t eat anything but was grateful for a cup of piping hot tea. I barfed again and steeled myself for the plane ride. Allah is great. He listened to my prayers, as I was okay on the flight. I was chatty and happy and was just okay. Dan and I talked non-stop and was having a wonderful time.

But as soon as we landed and got out of the plane, I was feeling my bad health again. My 2 hours was up. Dan chastised me for not begging for my wellbeing instead of just a 2 hour respite… aduhai…. How would I know ?

Dan’s parents picked us with Titi in tow. She ran to hug me and kept asking what business do I have at the airport. In the car, Dan’s mom regaled us with the stories of our kids while we were away.

The first night Dan’s parents took my children to sleep in their room. However in the middle of the night, Umar woke his sister up and led his sleepy sister to sleep in our room. He switched on the fan and the bathroom light and went to sleep. Dan’s mom found them curled up to each other on our bed.

The next night, Aida came to play and invited Umar and Elsa to sleep over at her house. Umar refused but Titi wanted to go. Umar was at the top of the stairs, Elsa was on the landing on the middle of the stairway and Aida was at the bottom. Umar told Aida to bring his sister home by 9 pm. He said he wants to sleep at 10. Aida then spoiled everything by asking if it is okay to be slightly late ? Umar upon hearing that started crying. No, he said. Elsa has to be home on the dot at 9 pm. Elsa by then had quietly went up to her brother, took his hand and led him to our room. There they stayed together watching the telly and fell asleep. She didn’t even say goodbye to Aida.

This brought back memories when Dan followed me to Singapore for work. We left Umar with my parents. Umar apparently held on to his overnight bag for dear life, refusing to let go. He took the bag with him everywhere. After every bath, he would collect all his dirty laundry and stuffed it in his bag, ready to leave at a moment’s notice, waiting for his parents to return and collect him. He was less than 3 at that time.

Hai nampaknya susahlah Mummy and Babah nak pegi Umrah berdua ni…

Monday, July 30, 2007

Bandung Day 1

I had a romantic getaway two Wednesdays ago with my husband to Bandung. Romantic ? Wa ha ha ha ha…. It was as romantic as watching paint dry because a day before we left, I was plagued with sickness. I started coughing and had a fever.

The plane ride was okay as I was not that sick at the time. When we arrived, we went straight to the hotel and were allowed to check in. When I laid down, I found it hard to get back up again. Dan was concerned but I dismissed it away as we were already there and I promised to take Dan around.

I forced myself to get up and took a cab to Pasar Baru. Dan hated the pasar. At that time I was already quite under the weather and didn’t know where to go. I remembered that I wanted a new telekung so I took Dan to the shop where Amelia and I bought ours last time. I was sick and disorientated. The pasar looked more crowded than it did last time. We went around and around, trying to find that particular shop when I spotted it by chance. What a bummer. There were not many telekungs around and the style was out-dated. All that for nothing.

I insisted for a new telekung and therefore visited about 3 shops before Dan pointed out that all the shops carried the same telekung. He was pressuring me to just pick one. O-kay….. Right then I was thinking Amelia was nicer to walk around the pasar with. I hastily picked one. I hate doing that because I know I will feel discontent ( and how right I was ) with my purchase.

It was already 12 and I suggested we sit down for lunch. I needed to take my medication anyway. Up we went to the 6th floor to the food court. I was raving to Dan about the food Amelia and I had there. However Amelia was the one who bought the food. I sat at the table and waited for her. So when I got there I was confused. Nothing looked like the food Amelia had cleverly bought. Aiseh. I was getting dizzier by the minute and Dan had a look of consternation on his face. I hate being a tour guide.

I finally decided to eat the safest thing that was offered there, Soto. At least there will be no surprises there and I do feel like having soup. We sat down and ordered 2 sotos. The alarm should have been raised when after 10 minutes of ordering the food failed to appear. It is just soto and in good ol’ Malaysia, it usually takes less than 5 minutes to put everything together. I was sick and was just relishing the comforts of the chair and was not thinking much.

The first to appear were 2 plates of rice. Aiik ? Nasi ? I thought we ordered soto ? Then came 2 steaming pots ( yup, pots ) and when we opened the lids, it revealed burbling beef soup ( or more appropriately broth ). Dan looked at me but hey, I gave a him a look that said don’t-look-at-me-mister-I-am-as-confused-as-you-are !

We dug in. It was nice enough but Dan hated it because it was littered with timun air. I had no appetite and Dan didn’t like his food ( he is fussy, that one ). The waiter raised his eyebrow when he saw the uneaten fare.

I took my husband to Rich and Famous next. Luckily he was happy there. Since I only have the clothes on my back and a pair of pyjamas in my bag, I had to choose an outfit. I was rather ill by then and couldn’t choose anything. Dan had to do my shopping for me and chose a long-sleeved t-shirt that is too short for me. The next day I had to walk around with my tudung covering my chests ( as it was just not too short, it was one size too small too ) while looking for a more appropriately sized baju ( thank you honey for thinking that I was that thin ).

We then went to Rumah Moda. Dan luckily loved it there too as the ambiance was calming and the décor was superb. He quickly found clothes for himself and we bought loads for our kids. None for me though. No baju ( semua long sleeves t-shirt yang Britney Spears nak lah pakai or short sleeves ) and not even bags. It was so much different from when Amelia and I went.

Then of course I went to got my feet reflexologied… he he… That is the best reason to go to Rumah Moda actually. I practically ran there as my was body aching and my head was throbbing. There was only 1 chair left and I quickly took it. Dan refused to be massaged and sat next to me. Boy was that a killjoy. I found out that day that it is very disconcerting and very unnerving being massaged while somebody watched in boredom.

We then trudged back to the hotel. Well, not exactly trudged as we did take a cab. Despite the massage, my body was killing me and I had a fever. I was alternating from being hot to cold at very regular intervals. Luckily I had my supply of ponstant with me and Dan thoughtfully packed some Panadol Actifast. Come 7 o’clock we were hungry again ( I barfed twice ) and decided to head to the shopping complex just down the road from our hotel.

We were debating whether to go on foot or take a cab. I felt we should walk as it is so near but Dan said he doesn’t want us to walk where the pavements are housing various stalls and had to walk on the road instead. He apparently mistrusted Bandung drivers. As we were discussing ( more like bickering ) the hotel’s pak guard approached us. He advised us to take the Angkutan instead. We apologetically told him the smallest denomination we have on our person was Rp 100,000 and therefore will pose a problem when paying the Rp 1000 fare each. He then whipped out his wallet ad gave us Rp 2000. We were horrified and horribly embarrassed. He kept pushing the money to us and we kept pushing it back to him. I finally took the money when I saw how adamant he was and frankly I did not have the energy to play Rp. 2000 tug-of-war with him. He was so proud I felt guilty for refusing in the first place.

Where did we go ? First to find a Wartel. Dan was so homesick ( read missing Umar and Elsa ) his eyes went watery as he talked fondly of his children ( their monkey-like perangai mysteriously vanished from their father’s memory ). We found one but it couldn’t make calls to Malaysia. We tried at the hotel before we left and the receptionist said “ Belum biasa buat panggilan ka Malai-sia pak ”. O-kay.

We went inside the mall to look for a pharmacy. I bought a packet of Panadol for flu and fever and bought some cough drops. Then we went to search for food. My husband took me to McDonald’s. He said he doesn’t trust Indonesian food anymore. Yelah tu Rashdan. Just admit that you are a junk-food junkie.

Admittedly, my mouth watered looking at the Indonesians eating friend chicken with rice but luckily I remembered the frogs in my throat. I ordered Fillet-o-fish and some fries ( which oddly was okay for the frogs… he he ). The chilli sauce was hot I tell you. It was super hot but yummy….

Anyway, went to their supermarket and Dan bought more junks for his tummy. Then off we went back to the hotel. I slept fitfully amidst Dan’s channel search for something that he could understand. Finally he shut his mouth when an English movie appeared on the screen at 9pm, but with as much iklan as before ( there were so many iklans on their telly, we watched more iklan than real shows. All about keputihan baju and kulit muka, menghilangkan ketumbir and entah apa – apa entah ).

Bersambung esok kay sebab karangan ni dah melepasi 3 muka surat...

Friday, July 13, 2007

Where iklan Petronas took me

Haiii Petronas… menyusah kan aku aje. I fill my petrol at Petronas and because of that I have like 10 pieces of entry forms for the Saya Anak Malaysia contest. I am very much not into entering competitions especially those that require me to write slogans, but since I got loads of them ( not counting those that I have actually scrunched up and thrown ), I think well … why not.

Before I have to think up some witty words that will get me one of those cars, I have to match the messages written to the correct Petronas commercials. So I went to their website and watched all 5 iklans and sobbed and sobbed and sobbed.

I love my country. Each iklan stabbed my heart because it reminded me how much I really love my country. I mean that is the reason why I buy only Petronas, bank at CIMB Bank and RHB Bank and try to buy Malaysian first whenever and wherever possible.

Those close to me also know how much I love my people. Amelia and I, we share the same values and that is why it is so easy with her because with her, I do not have to explain. She is with me all the way.

But those Petronas iklans taught me a few new things too. First, I have to value being anak merdeka. Hari Merdeka should not be just another holiday, another reason for me to have an extra work free day, but a day to really thank Allah SWT that I am living in a wonderful and free and safe ( to some extent ) country. Sadly, the current government failed to see that and I see them failing to keep us free, safe and wonderful. And I foresee that soon, we will again be colonised.

The second thing it taught me is that, I have to love my fellow Malaysians. I have to love and cherish my friends more than I currently do. We are too caught up with our work and family that we forget the community. Sadly, it is something that the current government has failed to notice too. Poverty is everywhere. It is not focus on any particular race, but a problem that is faced by every type of ethnicity in Malaysia. What they are interested to do is just fattening their pockets. I can show you the house of a local politician who if I am not mistaken, was just a government engineer before. It is so huge and that is the second wife's house. The first wife ? Fooo.... words cannot describe it. How can you steal rakyat's money for your family's extravagance ? If your family were living on the street, I would've understand it but they were not. Sure you were not living on a sprawling estate but you you do have a roof over your head. How can you let some poor people starve so that your kids could be kitted in Rolexes.... ?Neraka jahanam for you...

What I am most saddened by is that no matter what we do, no matter what we try, we only have small hope for all Malaysians to unite and stand together because we were never united in the first place. Simply because of our failure to speak in one language. We failed to be educated by the same school system. How can we unite when we each have our loyalties elsewhere ?

Indonesia had done and is doing the right thing.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Article Review : Hidden Dangers in Your Car

Very eye opening article featured in this month’s Reader’s Digest. It discussed about the importance of securing every item and person in your car when you travel. This is because when you are involved in an accident and your car brakes suddenly, every unsecured objects ( including humans ) would become projectile, fly at a high speed and could be deadly to you.

What Malaysians are practising is only passengers sitting in the front seat would be safely belted. Even that is a hit and miss. We never consider unbelted passengers behind and stuffs on the backseat floor that can fly if not restrained. All these are hidden dangers.

One guy put his credit card on his dashboard. When his car stopped on impact it flew and cut his throat. A measly credit card, kay ? Luckily the cut was not deep enough to be fatal. Another guy although survived when his car collided with another car, was killed by his tool box when it flew and hit him on the head, hard.

A team analyzing car crashes concluded that risk of death for belted front passengers rose 20% higher when there are unrestrained passengers behind. Whereas you have 120% higher chances of surviving the crash when your passengers put on their seat belts. Logic really, the front passengers became the back passengers’ airbags. You actually have to brace yourself from impacts internally when you’re involved in an accident.

MPV owners are more at risk because their cargo area is not separated from the main body of the car. Prams and whatnots that you stow there can potentially hit you or your children when accidents happen. Therefore they suggest getting a cargo divider, a gate that separates the cargo area from the passengers.

One lady luckily heeded that particular advise. Her car hit a curb and was forcefully stopped but when she looked behind, her son was not even bruised because the stuffs she had in her cargo; prams, first aid kit, can of food and auto supplies slammed on the cargo divider instead of her son.
Be aware. Be safe.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Book Review : Me and Mr Darcy by Alexandra Potter

Ms Potter is an unknown author to me. I chose the book because I like Mr Darcy and there were promises of special appearances by the enigmatic man himself !!

To those who had read Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen would have known and loved Mr Darcy, the fictional hero. He is the perfect gentleman, the tall and silent type, handsome and brooding. His problem is that he could be quite arrogant though, thinking that he is vastly superior to anybody else. But did I mention that he is handsome ?

He he… however his cold, arrogant attitude actually masked his loving, compassionate and kind nature. There is where the pride and prejudice comes from, by both Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy. Proud of their own heritage and family and then prejudiced against one another. Aiseh.. please read this marvelous book if you haven’t because it is such a total loss if you didn't.

Pride and Prejudice has been adapted into the big screen many times but the most popular ones are the BBC drama featuring Colin Firth ( say aaahhhhh…………… ladies ) as the dashing Mr Darcy and one actress I have forgotten her name and most recently on the big screen with Keira Knightly and the delicious Matthew Macfadyen ( you can catch him on Hallmark and Channel 26 in the tv series Spooks where his smoldering good looks and somewhat Mr Darcy attitude makes me forget what the day’s story is all about ).

Anyway, when I read this book, I alternately pictured Mr Darcy as Colin Firth ( who is just wonderful ) and Matthew Macfadyen. This book is somewhat like Kate and Leopold where two different eras somehow merged, and in this case a fictional character became real.

Emily has sworn off men. She had always fancied Mr Darcy and decided that the man in her life from then on would only be him, in her head. Magically ( and due to her best friend who wanted her to go to Mexico for some serious partying which is totally not her scene at all. She is after all a bookworm ) she joined the Jane Austen tour to England ( did I mention she is American ? ). All the participants were old biddies, except for one Spike Hargreaves, a journalist researching why women would like to date Mr Darcy or even be Mrs Darcy. Emily then actually met Mr Darcy in bizarre circumstances, dated him and well… read.

The book is well written and I enjoyed her style. I also love her ideas as again I always look for something that hadn’t been written about. I also love the idea of resurrecting Mr Darcy as well… sigh… I wanted to know more about him.

Apart from that, the book I have to say is rather predictable. Spike from the very start showed his Darcy like tendencies. And the way they met and the prejudices they harboured on each other from the very beginning.. well… gave the ending away.

But, it is still a very good read. So much so that I am buying another one of her books today for me to decide if Ms Potter is a keeper !!

PS : Can I say that although I love the brooding Mr Darcy, why I feel like strangling brooding Mr Dan ?

Friday, July 06, 2007

Halal Food

Last week I read in disgust on JAIS’ claim that only 3 hotels in Selangor have Halal certification. Halal food in my Muslim country has been a real sore point in my life. Malaysia is an Islamic country. I don’t care if is Islam is just the official religion ( which I have been reminded of many, many times ) but being an official religion has to mean something doesn’t it ? Then why bother putting Islam as the official religion ( whatever that means ) ? The majority here are Muslims. We have mosques and suraus littered everywhere, but when it comes to food the halalness is not a sure thing. As JAIS put it, halal certification is a voluntary thing. Ada ka ?

This means all this while, all the food I have consumed is not guaranteed its halalness ? When I was living in the UK, I had to scan and check every food item I intended to buy to ensure its halalness ( read vegetarian ). I memorise all non-halal ingredients like gelatine, whey, E315 or more obviously animal fat to ensure that the food I eat and feed my family with falls within the requirements of Allah SWT. It was tiring.

In Malaysia, I took for granted that everything is halal. Either the displayed food items in the supermarket, or restaurants ( except those clearly non-halal ones lah ) or hotels, any place that sells food. I thought being in a Muslim country, I am safe. Apparently I am not. I felt cheated somehow.

I was in a mall in KL the other day and was at the food court. I saw a stall that said Nasi Padang manned by 2 female employees clad in tudung. I was in a hurry and although tudung wearing Indonesians are not a sure guarantee that the place is 100% halal, but the name of the stall was Nasi Padang. Surely…. Right ?

Anyway, I went there, asked for nasi tapau and as to my customs chose vegetables only. When I waited for the kitchen help to calculate the price of my food, I took a good look around. Then I noticed quite a few items that were noticeably not Padang people’s food. Fine. Sometimes you know, to attract wider customers, you have to offer food that suits everybody’s palate. Then as 1 policeman asked for nasi bungkus, I blurted out the question that had been plaguing my mind. Is the food is halal ? Yes, was the answer.

Who is the owner ? I asked. One looked nervous and the other one said campur – campur. She then added that the cook is a Javanese. I then asked again who is the owner ? She reluctantly said it is not a Muslim. But then she quickly added that everything is halal. Yeah, I said, who buys the fresh produce ? I looked at the policemen and he appeared nervous too. He smiled at me. I smiled back and left.

Sure the cook is a Muslim but where did the owner buy the meat ? I know for a fact that non-halal chickens are 50 sen cheaper. For unscrupulous people who just don’t care, they want to save that 50 sen, correctly thinking that the unsuspecting public wouldn’t know. I am not saying that every restaurateur in Malaysia is unscrupulous, but not all in the rose bush are flowers. There are thorns. Can I just remind my friends on the sausage debacle last year ( or was it this year ? ). I am not so trusting anymore after that.

I once saw a nasi ayam restaurant receiving its stock of chicken for the day wheeled in by non-Muslims deliverymen. I went red in the face and asked the cashier. She assured me the chicken is halal but when I pointed to the 2 deliverymen, she coloured a bit and she said campur – campur. What do you mean by that ? She explained half of the chicken from a Malay and the other half from a non Muslim, but she said even from the non-Muslim they are halal. Really ?

When I asked for halal certification, they have none. I left. When I called JAIS he advised me that as Muslims I should go to restaurants with halal certificates only. But, I stammered, I am in a Muslim country. How can that be ? What about those Arabs who come here and eat anything they want thinking that all the food in Malaysia is halal ?

From then on, whenever I am unsure if I will be served halal food, I will only take the safest option, go vegetarian. Therefore I eat laksa assam a lot and no more curry laksa. Please do not add more headaches to me by asking about plates and cutleries. As long as it is not pork… he he… boleh ke ? Hmm… one step at a time…
Masterfood announced their infamous confection Mars is no longer halal. They will start using rennet, an animal based product. Will Mars bars have a non-halal stamped on it from now on ? Or at least a sticker, to warn us that it is not suci for us anymore ?

Please, make halal certification a must. If not, produce a non-halal one. Employ more people to ensure that fresh produce is bought at halal certified abattoirs and manufacturers. I wouldn’t know the identity of the owners until I take the liberty to ask. Seriously, I don’t want to do that. Apart from that, please create a system that can clearly indicate where these halal certified restaurants get their meat from. Sure it is a lot of work and requires real enforcement work but isn’t Jabatan Agama Islam’s job to ensure ( at some point ) that we live the Muslim way ?

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Movie Review : Transformers

I don’t know what to say. Dan and I when we heard they made a Transformers movie jumped up and down with joy. When it’s date of arrival was announced, we bought the tickets 2 weeks early.

Come Saturday, I leapt from my sejadah when I heard my husband came into the room. We almost collided. Dan was jumping up and down. “ Transformers !! “ We shouted at the same time, giddy with excitement.

Dan and I are big fans of Transformers. One of our special moments was when we realized that both of us watched the sad Transformers movie where Optimus Prime died. We cried ( I was at Seksyen 8 and he was at Seksyen 7, oblivious to each other’s existence then ). I cried for days whenever that scene re-played in my head. Him, lying there on the hill ( I said hill Dan said no hill ) alone, while the rest of the Autobots stood and watch. I forgot what his last words were but the leadership was passed to Ultra Magnus ( although he didn’t want it ), then Decepticon’s Galvatron got the Matrix before Hot Rod recovered it from Galvatron and became Rodimus Prime. But none matches my Prime. None. He was kind and compassionate, such a gentle giant.

We both looked at each other in wonder when we found out how we both felt about that scene. I was thinking if he could feel the way I feel that day, then he is definitely the one for me. I looked at him with renewed respect starting from that day. We were glad that we had something special to share. I would say, Transformers made us closer… he he.

Anyway, wow ! The cinema was full. When it started, people started clapping their hands. Then I know I was in the cinemas with people my age, people who grew up watching them. Dan kept showing me his hands, where all hairs stood on its end. Me too babe, me too.

The US in Qatar was attacked first by Decepticon Blackout and the survivors was then attacked by Scorponok. Bumblebee by then had weaseled his way to be Sam’s car when Barricade assaulted them. Bumblebee annihilated him.

When the rest of the Autobots came in a meteor of some sort after Bumblebee called them, I knew one of the 4 was my heroic Optimus Prime. “ There ! Optimus is coming !! “ I shouted. When he stood, and emulated the famous blue and red truck, I thought I could burst.

When they converged, re-uniting with Bumblebee and revealing themselves to Sam, and they transformed with the sound that I knew and remember so much, I wept. I wept when I saw Optimus Prime for the first time. He is so handsome. Man. His light blue eyes were familiar and his voice was the same. It was still Peter Cullen.

Watch it people. It was wonderful with serious military action. It was high octane. It was funny too. It will make your goose bumps have goose bumps.

Megatron is so huge. Damn him.
Anyway, Dan and I agreed, this movie was so excellent, it surpassed all other movies. Not Fantastic Four, not Spiderman, not Pirates of The Carribean... nothing. I do not think Harry Potter's new movie is going to standout. No way... no way....
However, if you are not a fan, then you will be confused when the action starts. You will be thinking which are the Autobots and which are the Decepticons. That complaint came from my boss anyway....

Transformers ! More than meets the eyes…