Sunday, November 30, 2008

Bye Bye Kids....

The ASEAN camp is over. The curtains finally came down last Friday night with a grand dinner hosted by the Minister himself. The ASEAN participants, although very exhausted from the week long activities, were excited with to meet up with ministry officials, sponsors, country Ambassadors and reps. They put up a beautiful cultural show for the guests and it was indeed one unforgetable night for them.

So what's next for them once they return to their countries? Guess they'll be talking about the camp non stop in the upcoming days. Last I checked, the number of visitors to the Portal has increased tremendously. Looks like some of them are already showing off what they have been doing at camp to friends and families back home.

For me, I'm so, so glad that it's over. All the hard work has paid off and the client is happy with what they saw..thank God!!!

I just have one more big assignment on Tuesday. After that, this old machine will take a break for a few days. A couple of routine tasks still await me, nothing rocket science, something I should be able to complete in no time, thus allowing me to relax a bit and come next week...thada....koalas, kangaroos, whombats here we come!!!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Can't Sleep - Mumbai Blast

The great bricks of Agra Fort

It was a rather depressing night for me last night. I had work to catch up with but that wasn’t really the reason why I was so pissed. Earlier in the day, India was rocked again. This time in the City of Mumbai, one very heavily populated city, popular with its Bollywood stars and also the financial centre of Mr Manmohan Singh’s government.

According to Indian media reports, an unknown group – Deccan Mujahideed was behind these brutal attacks on the city. Apparently, the Deccan is a region in southern India that was traditionally ruled by Muslim kings. Many quarters have said that this attack was deliberately planned to hit the international targets which are frequented by foreigners and the top Mumbai elites. Two years ago, bombs exploded during the rush our at one of the train stations. This time, target was the Taj and Oberoi Hotels.

If there is such a thing on caste for hotels, indeed the Taj and the Oberoi Hotels would be placed in the highest position. High profile (local) businessmen dressed in fine wool suits accompanied by their beautifully dressed, fair skinned, perfect English speaking wives are the usual sightings in these hotels. They all walk with such fine grace only stopping to chat with acquaintances of their same kind. As they pass you, that soft sandal wood scent follows the breeze. Once they are done with their mingling or meetings, they call upon their drivers and within minutes the obedient servant, dressed in the pressed white uniforms will drive right to the entrance of the hotel. Having opened the doors of the Indian made cars – the Ambassador, they are entrusted to deliver their Maam Shahabs safely and happily home or to other destinations of her calling.

Ahhh…that’s the kind of luxury lives these Taj and Oberoi frequenters lead. A few meters away, just outside the borders of the hotel, the colors are different, the smell is pungent, the pace is a lot faster, the skin is a lot dryer and even the teeth is less white (if there’s still any teeth left in the poor soul). This is where the real India lives and breed – all the other many millions of the population. Little homeless children crammed the shantytowns while the sick and very old would just die on the streets underneath their cardboard homes. Side by side but such a world of difference.

At the Oberoi hotel lobby

Indeed some of the sights of India could be somewhat difficult for one to swallow. I’ve been to India a few times. When I tell friends that I’m going to this colorful place on earth, they don’t believe me. They’d say I’d never survive that place, so smelly, dirty, overly polluted and populated like India. As a matter of fact, I had doubts if I could survive the trips. Nonetheless, I managed to pull through each one of them.

One of the mosques next to Tak Mahal

Truth be told, I love this place. Call me a hopeless romantic, but there’s just so much romance here. What’s with that great love of Shah Jahan for Mumtaz, the discrete love affairs of the Moguls Kings and his secret ladies, the land owners and the little peasant girl…the list is endless. Love and passion is depicted in their architecture, literature, song and dances. The practices (and positions..heh heh) of Karma Sutra, ayurvedic healing and even Yoga, put emphasis on love, peace and harmony with oneself. Hence, why the bloodshed, why the sadistic acts??

Nissa at the Oberoi pool

It gives me chills to the spine thinking about the dead and injured in Mumbai. Human lives should never be wasted just as such, Muslims or no Muslims, militant or no militant. It could have been someone so dear to you, it could have been members of our congregation or even the guy who lives down the road. None of such beastly acts is worthy to man and neither should we condone them.

Hotel lobby...

As I look out from my window this morning, my condolences goes out to the families of victims who perished in the condemned blast. I wonder if it’s too much to ask for – the act of trustworthiness, forbearance, mercy, compassion and loving-kindness towards all peoples.

Peace to the World….

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Dinner

It snowed that morning. Most of the students on campus had gone back to their home towns to celebrate Thanksgiving. There were just a few more weeks of classes before study week and after that it would be our finals. The spirit of holidays has set in even as we struggle to keep up with our assignments.

Liza & I - one Spring break in New York

I was at the foreign students office one day when I came across the invitation to celebrate Thanksgiving with a teaching staff’s family. The invitation was for foreign students who were on campus during the holidays. I must have been with my roommate, Liza, I think at that time. Eager to experience a truly American Thanksgiving celebration, very happily we signed up for the dinner.

Not long after we put our names on the notice board, the foreign student’s office called, saying that we would be having Thanksgiving dinner with the family of a History professor. Okay…that we thought was going to be an experience worth going for. A few days before Thanksgiving, the wife of the professor called, introducing herself and told us of the pick up arrangement. And that even got us more excited.

Moi & Liza

Both Liza and I thought of what we were going to wear, should we be dressed in our normal slacks and sweater or should we go looking more cultured - donning a traditional Malaysian costume. It was between baju kurung or the kebaya. In the end, we chose the kebaya. I was going to wear my kerawang kebaya and Liza was to put on one of hers.

I remember this kebaya that I had. It was beige in colour and the sarong was the long batik lepas kain. Just before I left to study in the US, my late father had taken me shopping in Singapore!! It was indeed a treat for me. I remember shopping for materials to make baju kurung and of course the kebaya piece. I got the kebaya piece from one of the shops in Arab Street together with two pieces of batik sarong and telekung. Abah being Abah, would never compromise quality for anything else. He wouldn't mind paying for the premium as good stuffs would last a life time. True enough, those bajus and kain batik that I got more than 20 years ago still look the same, even after so many wears.

It was a very cold day, that Thanksgiving day. The dreary winter weather had started to test our tolerance on the wind chill and the sub zero temperatures. It was going to be a challenge for both of us, going out in our thin kebaya when the temperature was somewhere around 40 degrees Fahrenheit. But we were so gung-ho to promote our Malaysian traditional attire, cold or no cold.

The professor picked us up at our apartment around 4pm, if I recall well. It was almost dark by then and cold too!!! The temperature had dipped even further. Imagine both of us, in a kebaya and sarong and heels. Thank god for our winter coats for keeping us warm during the ride. One thing with these Mat Sallehs, they have gotten so used to the cold, at times some of them didn’t bother having the car heater on during the early days of winter. Bila dah berkepul-kepul mulut with asap, baru lah they all on kan the car heater tu.

A typical Thanksgiving dinner spread

Our host was very friendly and homely. They had two girls who were pretty young still, and with the two of us, it was dinner for six that night. The professor told us the story of Thanksgiving and what significance it had to the American families. They served us with the traditional Thanksgiving dinner of turkey, potatoes, corn, cranberries and pumpkin pie. When offered red wine to go with the turkey, we politely turned it down and settled for milk instead. Dah jadik macam kanak-kanak sihat lah pulak. Servings after servings and I could feel there wasn’t much space left in that kebaya for me. I was filled to my lungs, nasib baik the buttons of the kebaya didn’t pop. My kain sarong was so tight that I had to go to the bathroom to loosen the tali pinggang.

We had a good dinner that night but we both definitely had to work extra hard at keeping warm. Clad in just the kebaya and kain batik lepas, didn’t quite help and somewhere during desert I could see Liza shivering and so was I. Dalam hati we were saying like, tak de heater ker kat rumah prof ni. Even in our small apartment, our heater was put to max very time the temperature dipped.

Finally after the pumkin pie desert, we were ready to leave and the professor sent us back to our apartment. In the car, we could hardly speak as we were so afraid that we would stammer with our words. Burrrr…it was so cold and nasib baiklah dear prof had the heater on in the car. If not we’d surely kejung till we reach our place.

My daughter Farah wears this kebaya now. Batik lepas sarong is substituted with beaded batik skirt, putting a little modern touch to go.

We thanked our host for their hospitality and stood for a while at the front door to wave him goodbye. As soon as we saw him driving away, we quickly ran into our apartment building and stood near the hallway heater. Ahhh…it felt so good!! Baru lah dapat rasa our toes and fingers yang were almost frozen earlier.

That was some experience we had, the Thanksgiving dinner was one and the cold was the other. After that dinner, the kebaya went straight into the closet and didn’t make its appearance till the ice melted and summer warmed the land.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Double Yeah

Two reasons for the jubliation today.

Reason no 1

Faris was discharged late this afternoon. Alhamdulillah... All tests done on him, didn't point to any signs of the big "C" (which was my biggest fear ever). It's a real relief now that he's out of the hospital. I was a little worried about his condition after the biopsy yesterday. When I arrived at his room late afternoon, I found him in tears. According to him, the procedure was very painful and once the anesthetics was gone, the pain was unbearable. Isshhh...kesian pulak tengok dia meleleh air mata. In the end, ABE decided to accompany him at the hospital, just incase he felt worst in the night.

He has follow up visits with the doctors next week. Doctors will discuss with us the findings from the biopsy then.

When I signed the release papers earlier, I almost fell off the chair upon seeing the bill. Fuhh...what a whopping amount it was!! Thank God, for the medical coverage provided by T*B.

Reason no 2

Girls from the Philippines

ASEAN program day 1 and 2 went smoothly. No major hick-ups. Participants are really enjoying themselves. It was really delightful to see such close ties amongst them, especially during the learning sessions. And the exemplary acts of friendship showed by the Malaysian participants were really commendable.

Malaysian & Brunei boys

Teachers too are going Internet savvy.....Malaysian & Lao PDR

The Malaysian Team...yess, girls & boys...GO GO GO!!

To my team...Two days down and three more to go, people!!
Hang in there just a little bit more yah...

Monday, November 24, 2008

ASEAN Thingy

I’m at camp again. The camp has gone regional this time – to the ASEAN region. This is one of the consultancy work we do for one of the telcos in the country. My team was given the task to develop the curriculum, content and learning Portal for the camp. This was in fact the reason for my sleepless nights, splitting headaches, and obviously the extensive growth of gray hair in the past one month. Finally, after sessions and sessions of discussions, it was thumbs up on the curriculum from the client and its organizing partners. (Later, I was informed that my curriculum was presented in cabinet. Woooo…didn’t expect it to go that high level.)

This morning's activity - ice breaking session

The camp which starts today is attended by participants aged between 10 – 14 from the countries in ASEAN. There are about 130 of them, kids and teachers. Looking all bright in their red t-shirts the kids are all ready to explore the world of technology – today and tomorrow.

Logo created by the Malaysian team

To my team, thank you for the all hard work and commitment showed by all. We’ve come this far, there’s no turning back now :)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Bibik-less in Shah Alam - Part 1

It’s day 4 today, the house is quiet and less buzzing. Reason to this is, WE now have no Bibik fussing over the dirty laundry or pacing up down in the kitchen to prepare our daily meals. Thus, stamping us with the bibik-less status.

Last Wednesday, we sent Bibik off at the airport for her slightly more than a month leave, her much needed tour of duty leave. That was also the reason why we had to rush all the relevant papers to get her work permit done. Without the renewed passport and work permit, she wouldn’t be able to go and come back to work after her leave.

If my memory serves me well, Bibik Kasmiatun is our 12th maid. She first came to work with us when Nissa was about a year old. After a series of lousy and nerve wrecking maids, she was like heaven sent to us. I was apprehensive when she first walked into our home. The previous one before her stayed for only a little longer than a month. One day back from work, I found a letter in the mail box, with these words written on the envelope – “Adinda ku……”

I was furious upon seeing the mail, all sealed in floral envelope. I could have sworn that the letter was written on scented writing tablets. (Cheh…pandai je maid ni nak main cinta, dia tak tau majikan dia ni DUA tahun dok menulis surat chenta., segala cards and scented writing paper kita tau…so tak payah lah nak cover line!!)

I know it’s bad to read letters which are not ours. But in this case I just had to do it, for the best interest of my family. True enough my guess wasn’t wrong, it was a letter sent by her husband who was in Indonesia. In that letter, he had told her that he was coming to Malacca to work in a farm and she was run away when he gave her the cue to do so. I shivered upon reading the last line. Just imagine, if I had passed the letter to her and she would have been able to plan for her escape!!! And what was to happen to my children? Left home alone to fend for themselves. Ohh…tidak…no way you are going to get to do this!! Over my dead body, woman!!

In just two days I sent her packing, cancelled all her papers and put her in a boat back to Dumai. I called the maid agent there and told him to collect her at the Dumai ferry terminal. And that was the end of maid number 11.

Since number 11 didn’t serve the two years contract, I demanded that my agent give me a replacement. He told me I had to wait a little while as he didn’t have any candidates at that time. Okay…but you’d better have one coming my way soon, and that was an order.

We chose this old lady from the rest of the candidates showed to us. In her passport, her age was written as 39 years old. Nahh..I knew it wasn’t her real age. These agents can be unscrupulous at times and the age they put in the form is usually not the “asli” one.

When Bibik Kasmiaton first started work, I had to teach her a lot of things. She didn’t have much working experience as previously she was only a farmer back home in Lampung, Sumatera. She told us that her ladang was destroyed when the crickets ate all her cash crop. It wasn’t easy for her to switch from a farmer to a domestic maid. I had to show her how to mop the house, clean the bathroom, use the washing machine, and the other electrical appliances. It was a trying time for me too. At times I’d call up my Mom and tell her how slow my maid is. But Mom said to just be patient, InshaAllah, this woman will work out for me.

And there I was, a very patient maid trainer. At one point I almost gave up, the Bibik just wasn’t learning as fast as I had wanted her to. She still missed that one spot that needed extra scrubbing in the bathroom. Even after telling her many times, she still didn’t get my message.

Fuhh….apalagi hangat lah Ibuk ni. I remember one morning when I told her off.

I said, “Kalau Bibik tak boleh kerja ikut cara saya, hah boleh balik Indon. Siapa majikan sini? Saya atau Bibik? Kalau saya majikan, saya mau pembantu rumah ikut yang saya cakap!!”

And I did raise my voice at her that time, iyer lah…dah hangat kan.

I thought that was it, I’d soon see her packing her bags and wailing to have us send her home. I observed her in the following days. Very much to my surprise, she changed!!! She began to do things the way I asked her to and she even apologized for what all her kesilapan. What a relief it was for me. And Moi, the garang majikan, learned a few good lessons myself, one of it was that I am to be less fussy, and definitely to be more patient – lots and loads of the honorable trait.

And that was the new beginning of Bibik Kasmiatun's long tenure with us.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Faris Hospitalized

This is the latest update on my son’s earlier appointment with the specialist at SJ*C. After making some physical examinations of the lump that Faris has, the doctor advised that Faris be admitted for through observations and medical tests.

I wasn’t at all prepared for that, but I figured if that was the best for him, I’ll abide to what the doctor says. Dr Mazi**h, the Internal Medicine and Endocrinology specialist said that Faris was to get the ultra sound and blood test done, plus to start on antibiotics right away. It was a long process of getting him admitted. First there was the wait for the room that he was to be in Then there were the admission papers to be prepared. Next was to wait for the concierge to come get him from the doctor’s station on Level 7 to go to the admission office which was on Ground floor.

Faris' chart

At the admission office, the girl who manned the counter asked me to take a number and wait till my number was called. Was met by the admission clerk after a good 10 minutes wait and had to sign more papers. Finally once the admin work was completed, Faris was taken to the ward by the Ward Concierge. All in all, that took almost two hours (mind you, SJ*C is a private hospital yah…but the red tape and wait sama macam hospital gomen gak).

Both Mommy and son were dead hungry by then as we have not eaten since breakfast. It was Asar by the time Faris settled in room 216. He had some juice which I got him earlier and when he was about to bite on the 1901 hotdog, the nurse came in and told him that they were taking him for ultra sound and it would be best if he hadn’t eaten anything today. Okay lah, food had to wait just a little bit longer.

Since we were not prepared at all to have him in the hospital, I figured I had better go home and get stuffs for him. It was raining and the room was so, so cold. Even after the AC was switched off, Faris was still shivering.

It was rush hour that time when I drove back to Shah Alam and it was pouring too. When I arrived home, Bibik and the girls were wondering what had happened to Abang. Told Bibik that Abang had to stay in the hospital tonight. She went like, “Ohhh kok, tak ada sakit, kenapa harus masuk hospital??”

“Long story lah Bik, later I’ll explain to you.” I told her and now could I have something to eat first.

Party in the room..

We got Faris’ stuffs and went back to the hospital around 6.30pm. It was magrib by the time we got there. Faris was ok..iyer lah…orang tak sakit masuk hospital kan. Macam duduk hotel lah jadik nyer. The girls were busy disturbing their Abang on his bed till the nurses came.

Then came the IV, terus nampak sakit

Ahh…it was medication time. First the nurses did an ECG on him. Then they put an IV line and started him with the antibiotics. Woo…poor thing, dari tak sakit terus nampak sakit dah when the IV was stuck into his hand.

The lab guy came after that and got some blood from him for testing. I was so squeamish that I went out to get some fresh air. When his antibiotics was done flowing through, we called the nurse to release the line.

The Dad pun sama terasa the pain..

Kesian pulak looking at him now, just like the other sick person in the other rooms. It was kinda difficult for us to leave him there. But he has to take his rest and we need to recharge as well.

“Bye Abang,” said Nissa. See you tomorrow!!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Posting Geram

I'm with Faris at SJ*C as I write this posting. Faris has this lump just above his collar bone. It wasn't painful previously. But just yesterday he told ABE that it was bothering him. We've been waiting to see the specialist since 11.30am. His apt is at noon. According to the nurse, doc is only seeing the 11.30 apt now. And time on my watch is 1.30pm.

Adoi laa...what time will we be able to see doc, I dont know lah. Thank god there's free WIFI. Dapat jugak send out this posting.

Home Grown

His first attempt at growing the banana plant in our backyard failed miserably. The baby plant dried up and died in a matter of days. Why that happened got ABE wondering to himself. He had planted the same baby plants at both my mom's and his mother's houses and they grew unperturbed.

ABE's home grown pisang tanduk

I guess patience and perseverance paid off and last week both Bibik and ABE harvested the fruits from this maiden pisang tanduk tree. Check out the fruit....

We've been having goreng pisang for the past two days. Infact, Bibik had even made kerepek pisang from the fruit. She said one big fruit was enough to make a container full of kerepek. I've asked Bibik to give away some of the fruits to our neighbours.

Ahhh...during these rainy afternoons, nothing would be more mouth watering than goreng pisang panas and coffee.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Tagged - Cringe Moments

I was tagged by Kak Teh to share my “Cringe Moments” about a week ago. Unfortunately work has been sheer madness, thus refraining me from organizing my thoughts about the piece I would like to share in this blogsphere. With two notable deadlines submissions earlier this week, I guess I deserve a break from all the “dry and serious writing” I’ve been doing.

Now, coming back to the tag, ummpp….it was kind of difficult to recollect my moments of bloopers and blunders. Don’t really know where to start though, but I’ll try and put up some of the moments that have gone into my LOL memory folder.

Cringe Moment No 1

This, in fact happened a couple of weeks ago at the car park of my client’s office. I was about to pay for my parking and suddenly I discovered that my purse was missing. At first I thought I had lost it but later I remembered that I had left it in my office drawer. You see, that morning I was extra industrious, took out my parking stubs and all other claimable receipts and passed them to my girl to do my claims.

The parking attendant, a foreign worker, told me that I was to pay RM15 for the parking (ohh..parking in KL is so very expensive these days!!). Alamak macamana ni, I didn’t even have a ringgit and how am I to get that all RM15 to dispose for my parking. I gave this sad plus pathetic look and told him my award winning sob story. I had all hopes that he’d buy it and did he?? Well, not quite. He said I would still have to make payments for the parking ticket. “Itu peraturan,” he sternly put it to me. Ahh…darn!! By then, I was already holding traffic behind me. As I looked at my rear mirror, I saw most of the other drivers were already looking furious with the delay.

Just a decorative pic..

Then I saw the gentleman who was in the car behind mine emerging from his X5. Habis lah I thought to myself, sure kena jerit punyer lah ni. To my surprise, the good looking gentleman leaned forward towards my car and asked what was wrong. In one sentence I blurted out that I didn’t have money to pay for the parking. I was expecting a lecture…but, instead he took out his Armani wallet (sempat tu mata tengok brand apa!!), searched for two ten ringgit notes and gave them to the parking attendant. He even told the attendant to keep the change.

I was speechless, it was as if the world stopped moving for a while. Once the parking barrier was lifted, he said to me, “You may go now and drive safe!!”

This can’t be happening, a good knight came to my rescue and I must say, a pretty good looking one too (got mustache, as I recalled later on how he looked like, no wonder lah boleh tergoda in that split second).

Before I drove off, I asked for his mobile number and I said I’ll pay him back. He just smiled and wave back at me and said this, “Nahh…my treat!!” Suddenly, I felt blood rushing to my face, probably due to the embarrassment and excitement of being “rescued” by the X5 knight. I still look out for his car these days when I go to the client’s office. It’d be really nice if I could slip a thank you note on the windscreen, unfortunately, the X5 was no avail.

Cringe Moment No 2

Again this one too happened in the car. I had this a pair of new shoes to wear to the office that day. New shoes would normally cause blisters to my feet if I didn’t do this one special ritual. My late grandmother once said that in order to avoid blisters from new shoes, you’ve got to give it a bite. Her rationale was, you bite it before it bites you. To my surprise, her petua worked miraculously well on me.

And that morning just as I put my new shoes on my teeth to give it a bite, the driver of the car parked next to my lot, peered at my windscreen. That time, the shoe was nicely positioned in my mouth and what a sight it must have been to him. He looked so puzzled upon the acts of his not quite right parking neighbour.

Since malunya tak boleh nak kata dah at that time so I wind-down my window, stuck out my head, held the shoes in my hands and said, “Kasut baru…” He too was stunned by my response. I saw him shaking his head and walked away. The flustered me sat still in the car for a little while longer, long enough till my parking neighbour disappeared into the lift. Since that incident, I have been so careful with my shoe biting ritual, only doing it at home in my room behind closed door. Even hidden from the viewing of Bibik and Nissa coz manalah tau kot-kot Bibik might think that, “So kesian my majikan, no money, makan kasut rupa nya!!”

Cringe Moment No 3

I usually have my lunch in the office since I don’t quite fancy the spread at the food court. Most of the time I’d have Bibik ta-pau sandwiches or fried noodles for me and I’d just go heat it up in the microwave and lunch would be ready in a jiffy. Tak payah nak rebut-rebut and queue at the food court. And because I don’t have to go out of the office, I didn’t bother much about the clothes I had on. Most of the time we are casually dressed when we don’t need to go out for meetings with clients. And neither did I bother much if my baju was transparent or too revealing coz we were just amongst us.

Unfortunately that day we had some visitors to the office. And boss had asked me to take them down for lunch. I relented initially but later obliged. Nak jadi ceritanya, that day I wore a long crepe skirt and a short blouse. The skirt had a thin organza lining and the blouse wasn’t long enough to cover my legs from having a silhouette expose. So when I walked in broad day light, ehem..ehem…waist down, was very visible. I though it wasn’t that obvious but later my girl whispered to me, “Puan…wayang kulit lah!!”

Ayoo…Amma, Appa…kari-valee!!! No wonder lah the guys walked as slowly as they could so that they could be behind me. Cisshhh rupa-rupanya they were having an eye feast!!! Not that I was Miss Malaysia ker, but guys being guys, I was sure it was cheap trill to them. Then when I came to the food court, I quickly got seated, and asked my girl to take care of the food orders. I didn’t get up at all till we finished eating. Itu pun masa walking up to the office, I was holding and “kepit-ing” my skirt. It was obviously wrong day, wrong attire for me. Truly a good lesson learnt for me though. Nowadays, I’d slip on my petticoat whenever I am in skirts or baju kurung. Sorry boys and girls, no more “terang bulan” privy from me, that’s for sure!!

Cringe Moment No 4

This happened when I was still teaching in Ui**. My first class with a bunch of engineering students and as the semesters before, language skills classes would always be given the last slot of the day. Kids would be tired and lectures were dead beat after a long day on their feet.

I looked at my time table and searched for the room where I was supposed to have my class. Since I was quite familiar with the rooms at the Engine School (those days it was “school” still) it didn’t take me long to get to my class. When I stepped in, the class was already packed with students. I introduced myself and got started with my expectations on their inputs during the class. I was going like, “You have this assignment, that paper due in…...bla bla bla,” very typical of me during my first meeting.

I was so absorbed in my explanation that I didn’t notice an Ustaz who had walked into the class, and at that time keeping silent at the back of the class watching me. The boys in my class went like, “Ehem..ehem..Miss…Ustaz tu..” I didn’t quite get what they meant so I just ignored their distractions and continued still with my talking.

I talked for a few minutes more and I could still see the boys fidgeting on their seats. Okay, let’s check out what’s the problem here, I thought to myself.

So I said, “Now boys, what seems to be the problem here? Are we or are we not having this business writing class?”

One of the smart alec said, “No Miss, this is not the time for business writing class.”

I replied, “No? Then what class are you supposed to have now?”

Another voice from the back said, “Sekarang masa Agama ya Puan Lecturer Bahasa Inggeris!!”

And you know who was the person who said this?? It was the Ustaz himself!! Fuhhh…I was crimson coloured by then. I couldn’t remember what I mumbled to the class and the apology I said to the Ustaz. Pulak masa tu zaman-zaman stilettos and skirt wearing days. Ustaz tengok atas bawah je lecturer English ni, who was in this one inch above the knee skirt and linen top. I picked up my stuffs and excused myself and walked out of the classroom. I think that was the last I saw the kids from that wrong class that I had walked into. The Ustaz, well if I recall well, did bump into him a couple of times at the cafeteria. I didn’t dare look at him in the eye for I was so positively sure he could still be rewinding that incident of me hijacking his Agama class. Ampun dan maaf yaa…Ustaz!!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Bibik's Day Out

They both left the house very early yesterday morning. In fact, it was earlier than the usual time he leaves for the office everyday. "They" were Bibik and ABE. Yesterday was Bibik's big day. It was the day where she was to be at the Indonesian Embassy to get her passport renewed. Just the night before, ABE tried to persuade me again to go with Bibik to the Embassy. I wouldn't have minded, if only I didn't have the day scheduled for a closed door progress meeting with a client. It was just not possible to reschedule, not when the DEADlines are getting closer and closer by the hour.

Before Bibik left, she told me that she didn’t manage to hang the laundry to dry. Told her not to worry about anything, just go (and have fun..heh..heh, almost said that to her, but I didn’t want to rub it in). Bibik has never gone to the city before. All the six years she had worked for us, she has never gone any further than the Mamak shop on her own. If we went outstation, we’d offer her to come along, but she would prefer to stay home and catch up with the ironing or cleaning. She told me some of her friends had often invited her to tag along during their Sunday outings. But she has always refused them politely. I put a lot of trust on her with the running of the household. Alhamdulillah, till now, my trust has never been betrayed.

How it looked like when I started work yesterday morning

After they left, I went on to get ready for my meeting which was also in town. Meeting was scheduled at 10am. Thank god, otherwise I’d have to endure the madness of the morning rush, just like the other single occupancy vehicle drivers (read : car pooling has no impact on KL drivers) on the road. ABE later called to inform that they were already at the Embassy, now standing in line waiting to for their number to be called. Bibik’s number was 29, wasn’t too bad, better than what I had imagined earlier, something in the hundreds.

The view from the meeting room

The sun came out earlier...then it rained

My meeting was long and laborious, item after item was discussed. I felt like I was facing the firing squad. We only went out during lunch. Coffee and refreshments were brought into the meeting room. When we were finally done, everyone looked as if they had no blood left in them, all ready to head back home to hit the sack.

How it looked when I left for home

When I got home, Bibik was all smiles. She said it wasn’t difficult to get the passport thing done. “Cuma kena berdiri dan beratur lama,” she said. According to her the lady at the passport counter was very nice and friendly when she saw that Bibik hailed from the city of Jogja. “Jumpa orang kampong saya,” she rattled with so much joy. I was saying this to myself, “Iyer lah…ramai lah sedara kat sini. Satu kampong sedara!!”

Bibik's crispy new passport

Later I heard her and Nissa talking on the patio about how big the city is. She said, “Uhh Kak Nissa, ramai nya orang di jalan raya. Bangunan kok tinggi-tinggi. Saya ngak pernah tengok macam itu. Orang Indon di kedutaan pun kok ramai amat. Yang mauk pulang, iya pulang. Yang mauk tambah passport, iyah gayak saya tadi.”

Nissa’s reply was simple, “Ha..lepas ni Bibik nak ker pergi jalan-jalan kat KL tu?”

Bibik said, “Ohh…tak usahlah. Saya pusing nanti...udah tua. Takut!!!”

New work permit

I was pretty much relieved when I heard her saying that. But you’ll never know these people, now kata tak mahu, but when friends come a calling, entah-entah mintak cuti nak joli. I will make it a point to observe her behavior in this next couple of weeks, mana lah tau kot-kot she met “chowok ganteng” at the Embassy just now ke. Hai…I hope there will not be such nonsense from her, now that we have renewed not only her passport but also her work permit. I just pray she'll continue rendering her good services to us, just like how it has been the past few years.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Rain & Mad Chase

I would have wanted to sleep a little longer this morning. Ahh..the extra 30 minutes would have meant a great deal, considering I only managed to doze off at 4.30am. And with the rain pouring outside, being under the covers would be the ultimate pleasure for a sleep deprived soul like me.

Then a text message came in, 10 seconds later another one followed. Ohh..siapa lah pulak pagi-pagi ni dah bak berbalas-balas pantun nih!! Half awake and eyes three quater opened, I read the text message. Ahhh...from my client, and that automatically got my eye balls dialating wider than it was 30 seconds ago. Nothing earth shaking (like sesi "fire mem-fire" ker) in the text, juz a good morning cheer. It was nice of the sender, but adoi lahhh...gue still mauk lenaa!!

I had still wanted to guling-guling on the bed just a while more. Then ABE pulak, pacing up and down, in out in out, pulling one drawer open after the other. Hint..hint...suruh bangkit lah tu..grrrr!!

Then it hit me that he's taking Nissa to renew her passport this morning. Nissa's passport is expiring in March 2009 and we'll be travelling in December. ABE doesn't really fancy going to the Immigrations office, then again who does? Long queues, all imaginable of a beautiful Malaysian would be there. You take a number and there are like 50 people infornt of you!! Sabar je lah...baca je lah paper front to end.

At 7.30am, ABE pulled out his car. I asked bibik where he went. Bibik said, "Tak tau, kata nya nak buat passport Kak Nissa." Ok..ok..BUT, BUT..Nissa is still upstairs enjoying the coolness of the morning pour. Ummmpp...what could be the problem, I wondered, perhaps he has another earlier apt.

Half hour later I heard him coming in. Ahh...nak bawak Nissa lah tu kot, I thought. I was already dressed by then and I hear him mumbling something, "Passport nak expire pulak.." Hah..memang lah nak expire dah passport Nissa tu, that's why gotta get it renewed. He said, "Nissa's yes and Bibik's too!!" Hence, making it not possible to get Bibik's work permit renewed as well. When it rains, it pours.... inside and outside my home this morning.

Ayoooo...the former I know lah how to do. The latter?? Got to go get it done at the Indonesian Embassy lah, which is in the strategic jam place in town!! I don't have the slightest hint on the procedures to go about renewing Bibik's passport. Thank God for Google, I went into the Indonesian Embassy's website and got the info needed. Adoii...banyak gak docs needed.

My schedule is really crazy these next few days. I'm counting on ABE to get the neccesary done. Long story cut short, I can't afford to have Bibik not around, so please please..head on to the Indon Embassy in the next few days, yar ABE :)

Monday, November 3, 2008

University of Wisconsin - Madison

I spent some time digging out old photo albums over the weekend. Nissa, Bibik and I were in chuckles when we flicked page after page the somewhat faded prints on Kodak paper. Nissa said I looked cute whilst Bibik who didn't want to offend her majikan said, "Ibuk kok masa itu kecil ya." (read: then kurus, now fat lorr). Later this evening, when Farah came back (from her visit to my Mom's), she helped to scan them. Did some photo editing using Photoscape (free tool downloadable on the Internet).

The administrative buiding on the Madison capitol hill

The main library, the main study area had lines of vending machines. Coffee, Snickers, M&M, take your pick. Favourite study place of Melayus doing their PhDs

The clock tower opposite the Social Science Building. A must photo stop site for new Melayus on campus, print fast and then send pics to proud parents back home.

The University Book Store..a place we'd always lepak, bukan sebab nak gi masuk bookstore tu..but sebab nak beli sweet & fresh nectarines from those fruit sellers

Red Gym, built in 1892 was a combination of gymnasium and armory. Also a place for students' registration at the start of the semester.

On the State Capitol area, Farmers' Market took place on Saturdays. Fresh fruits, bakery, honey and pickles...yummss!! And kids simply loved going on the horse carriage rides.

Where I stayed, a small studio unit on the second floor. This place was a real heaven, really quiet. I even slept through a tornado warning, the same tornado that swept the entire town of Barneville.

Collage football games on Saturday...Go Badgers!!

The marching band...roaring the "On, Wisconsin" fight song

The pretty, pretty cheer leaders...

1st down ...did we beat the visiting team?? Can't remember lah..One season Bagders played really well and qualified for the Independence Bowl. All time favourite quarter back was Randy Right.

Check out the pose people...maut!! It was no wonder the guys were calling us till the wee hours.

Ahhhh....the beauties and of course the BRAINS...wasn't easy doing a program in Computer Science in a Big Ten University.

These pictures were taken way back in 1982 - 1983, during my freshman semester at UW - Madison. Hence, that explains the rustic look of some of them. Nonetheless, enjoy I stroll down memory lane.