Wednesday, January 21, 2009

January 20th 2009

I just want to remember this day.

When Barack Hussein Obama was giving his inaugaral speech as the 44th President of the United States of America, I had just finished having dinner of Briyani Rice and Honey Chicken with my family, and was sewing Yan's deep purple tudung munah, which from now on I will refer to as "Tudung Obama".

It's a new day indeed.

Monday, January 19, 2009

A Mighty Heart

Do you remember that song "Video killed the Radio star"?
hm.. maybe you're not that old.
I think Tabloid Killed the Movie Star.

So I watched A Mighty Heart yesterday.
It is actually a very powerful story about the kidnapping of Daniel Pearl in Pakistan. But I had trouble suspending my belief for a few moments and feeling sympathy for his wife because I kept thinking about her frolicking around in a trishaw with Brad Pitt.
I managed to do that only at 2 points in the movie -
When she sms-ed "I love you" to him, in the middle of the night, even though she doesnt know if he'll get it.
When she screamed in grief after receiving the news (I had to actually mute my TV because it was too excrutiatingly painful to hear)
I cried both times.

I dont know, if it were not Angelina Jolie, I think I could've absorbed the movie better, but if it were not Angelina Jolie, would this movie get as much attention/promotion as it did?

I think this is why I like actors like Christian Bale and (uhm.. I'm trying to think of an actress that I like that is not over-exposed in the tabloids...) .. Selma Blair. You don't know what's going on with them in real life, so when they play a character on screen, they become believable as that character on screen. When they kiss their on-screen partner, you dont think about their off-screen partner being jealous.
Think about those years when tabloids barely existed. We believed Rock Hudson really loved Doris Day. We believed Cary Grant really loved Audrey Hepburn. We believed James Dean was really a rebel without a cause. We believed John Travolta was a struggling dancer or a teenager with an identity crisis. We believed C. Thomas Howell had big brothers as good looking as Patrick Swayze and Rob Lowe.
Now with the onslaught of too much information (on paper, on TV, on-line) about actors off-screen, it is becoming quite difficult to believe them when they are on-screen.

I liked A Mighty Heart. It is a good movie. I would buy and read the book if I have the chance, but I dont know if my heart is mighty enough to endure what she's gone through, even through empathy.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Instead of Complaining, Do Something!

The hottest current issue right now seems to be the Palestinian-Israeli issue, even though it is not really a new issue, in fact it's an issue that is older than most of us. It only becomes a renewed and hot issue (to the masses) when there is military action going on.
I know it makes some of you feel helpless and angry, and some of you are wondering "Why are there no one doing something?". Well, here I am to tell you to stop wondering and stop feeling helpless, because you CAN do something.

1. You can contact your local red cross/crescent society or Mercy malaysia or malaysians for peace and see if they are organising an aid mission, and find out how you can help out. Sometimes all they need are people who can help man the phones, or make phone calls, or type up reports, or fill up forms, or pack boxes. Help out with anything you can. No job is too small or too menial.

2. If you can afford it, donate some money so that they can fund their mission. No amount is too small.

3. For the same amount of time it takes to finish a Sudoku Challenge game, you can type up a short email directing your friends to the above websites and encourage them to help out in any way they can. For once, use spam for the good of mankind.

4. You can donate your saliva and tell your friends about the above things while you're chatting at the water cooler, coffee corner, kopitiam, waiting for your nasi ayam/goreng pisang at the roadstall.

5. Now, this last point might be a little a difficult for some of you, especially now that money is a little tight. But if you're willing to sacrifice a portion of your salary on this, instead of buying that new blackberry/iPhone or that LV handbag or that set of blueray discs or forgo that trip to that exotic location or new sports rims for your car, I assure it will be extremely rewarding, not just in this life, but even in the afterlife, InsyaAllah.
For as little as RM1640 (or (RM2210 if you want to include some duit raya), you can sponsor a palestinian orphan who is a refugee in Lebanon.
Your money (less than RM200 per month), will allow the child to go to school and get an education so that he/she can better the lives of his/her family. Your money (which you will receive a receipt for and can be deducted from your tax) will help ease the burden of the mother who has lost her husband and now has to support her children with her measly salary as a house cleaner.
You can even make your niat as zakat if you want, thus fulfilling your obligation as a muslim.
Your letters (because you will treat the child like your own child and write him/her letters) will give him/her hope that his/her lives did not end when his/her home was forcefully taken away. It will show them that someone out there, still remembers them, and still cares for them. In return, the child will write to you, and to have a child call you 'mother' or 'father' even though he/she has never met you, is an indescribable feeling.
Your efforts will not be just for palestinians now, but will be for palestinians of the future.
To do this, you can contact the Malaysian Sociological Research Institute, at or call (6)03- 4257 8649 .
You can even tell them you heard it from me, if you want. I dont mind at all.
If you think you can't afford to sponsor a child, do number 3. Forward this email to someone who you think can. Or do number 4, tell people that this program exists.

May Allah reward you justly for your efforts.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Ops Jalan Sakan - Duneful Doha

Part1 of our Ops Jalan Sakan (Mission:Travel-alot) - Duneful Doha

Since we (tentatively) have 6 or 7 months left to our stay here in the Middle East (and we dont know if and when we'll come back again), we decided to launch 'Ops Jalan Sakan' or 'Mission:Travel-alot', where the objective is to explore at least one new part of this peninsula per month.
We decided to launch this mission with a trip to Doha, Qatar for a duneful weekend, right after we got back from our Hajj. Lucky for us, Qataris were having a 3-day weekend starting on Thursday (their weekends usually start on Fridays) so it was just nice for us.

We arrived in Doha just in time for dinner on Wednesday, and woke up really early the next morning to meet up with the rest of the 11-car convoy at Seafront, Doha at 8am. I met other Malaysians in Qatar and was delighted to discover Suria, whose father was good friends with my father in law. We've never met them in Alor Setar, but had to meet them in Qatar, of all places. Taufik deflated our car's tyres to create more traction on the slippery sand of the dunes.

The drive towards Khor Al-Adaid (look it up) wasn't that treacherous. There were plenty of dunes to gett stuck in, but as long as you keep a steady driving speed and dont stop or accelerate suddenly, you shouldnt face any problems. We were lucky to be guided not only by people who have driven there before (and therefore would know the terrain well, or at least have previously proven safe routes stored in their GPS), but also by a local (a friend of one of the malaysians) who showed us a safe route. Driving in the sand dunes on your own is not advisable not only because there would be no one to help you if you get stuck, but also because you can never tell how steep a ridge might be and where they are and you do not want to get caught teetering over one!

We had a picnic by the in-land sea, which is actually a lagoon that creeps in land in between south-eastern-most part of Saudi and the south-western part of the Qatar peninsula. From where we were picnicking, we could see the other side of the lagoon, which is in Saudi territory. I'm sure there's a way to get there from Saudi, but we don't know how and Qatar is 'smaller' and therefore easier to reach Khor Al-Adaid from.
After a picnic of Nasi Lemak and Fried Rice and two types of fried chicken and yummy malaysian cakes, the kids went for a dip into the freezing waters while the parents try to figure out how to adjust the tents and tarpaulins so that it doesnt fly away. When the kids had their fill of splashing about, they changed into dry clothes and rolled around in the sand for a bit while parents took pictures. I noticed that almost every family had an SLR of one model or another. Seems like a trend these days. (Not complaining, just noticing). But when you come to these kinda places, you *would* want to capture the moment the best you could, wouldn't you?

We explored the dunes around the inland sea a little bit more before we decided to head home. We went to the part of the dunes that looks over the lagoon, and on the way back helped a few people who got stuck in the sand. Taufik, whom, I guess, were feeling like this would be the last time he would be able to go dune bashing, tried to hit almost every bump he could find and drive up on the side of dunes just for the thrill of it. When we saw Lollies' husband drive their car down a steep dune, we were hesitant to try at first, but my boys were complaining about how I wish they were in the other car, so I held on to izani, tightened my seatbelts, and said "Rawk On".
As the car neared the edge and the edge dissapeared and all we could see was the sky and the tiny, tiny horizon, I felt like I was at the very top of a very steep rollercoaster ride, except this was not a rollercoaster ride. This was a car that is not secured to any tracks and there was no computer program that created this ride and no engineers manning it and controlling it to make sure nothing bad happens. As the car tilted over the ridge I felt like falling through the windshield and all I could hear were the boys screaming "wooohoooooo!!!!!" (and I think I screamed too, but I wasnt sure it was out of excitement or fear) and Lollies' lover's voice on the walkie talkie telling Taufik to "keep the steering straight keep the steering straight". What felt like forever was actually quite a short ride to the bottom of the dune. Of course someone said "Let's do it again!" but the sun was already setting...

The next day after Friday prayers we had a quick lunch and headed towards the singing dunes.
We drove down Salwa road as if we were driving back to Saudi, then took the exit to "Mesaieed" and drove on until we could finally see some dunes on the flat and barren rocky terrain. We took a junction labelled "Al-Kurrarah" and headed towards the dunes. It was as if someone and carried dump trucks full of sand and just deposited it on a your gravel driveway, coz the area surronding the dunes were really flat and rocky, and suddenly there were piles and piles and piles of orange sand. The kids instinctly climbed the dunes the moment we shut the car engines, and Lollies' kids showed my kids how to create the sound. I didnt hear much at first (maybe coz their butts were too small? ha ha) but when Taufik gave Ilham the carboot tray to try to slide down the slope with, we could distinctly hear a very low pitched sound. It was almost like a mixture between a hum and a drum. The pitch/tone being very low, like produced by hitting the drum, but it was elongated and vibrated, as if you were running your finger over the skin of the drum.

When you try to produce the sound yourself, the sensation is extraordinary. Just simply sliding down doesn't really produce the sound, you'd have to move quite a fair amount of sand and the movement of sand produces a reverbation that felt like it was coming from deep inside the dune itself, and even after you've stopped moving, it will still produce the sound until no more sand is sliding or moving anymore and everything will become quiet again.
The kids climbed up and slid down the huge dune with such ease, that I thought it'd be the same for me, but let me tell you: I found climbing to the top of the dune harder than performing my Hajj! I kept chanting to myself to have faith and keep on trying everytime I took a few steps up slid down a few more steps down and saw that the top is nowhere nearer. My lungs felt like it was about to burst, my legs felt almost numb from the exertion and also from the coldness of the sand, but Ihsan was right there beside me, cheering me on, telling me "You can do it, Bonda!". At last, when I finally reached the top, I was rewarded with the pink, orange and violet hues of the sun setting over the vast undulating sands of the dessert. Too bad I didn't have the camera with me, and there was no way I would slide down and climb back up to take the picture! After taking in the view, I race down with Ihsan, and was joined halfway in by Lollies, our ample behinds vibrating the sand and giving out hums that I bet, would have echoed loud enough to wake up any scorpinoxes or sandworms lying asleep beneath the dunes.

The evening was colder than we expected it to be, but luckily I married a boy scout who could start a fire using whatever burning material we could find and the car cigarette lighter. Plus, he's much cuter than Bear Grylls, if you ask me. *wink* We happily gathered around the campfire and shared whatever cold food and hot drink that was left and exchanged riddles and jokes, before we packed up and headed for some hot and yummy Thai food.

All in all, it was a duneful weekend and we still had sand in our shoes a week after we got back. Qatar certainly has a lot to offer if you look hard enough. I think I need to plan another trip, maybe this time to explore Zikreet ? :)

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

slow and bumpy start

I hope it's not too late to wish everyone Happy New Hijrah year 1430 and Gregorian Year 2009!

This year started a little bumpy.

My internet is intermittent :P, really killing my mood to blog.
I got a little sick on new year's day, perhaps due to my over enthusiasm of having a few Hajis and Hajjahs over for a potluck high tea. After almost a week, my nose is still blocked and I am still coughing a bit, but at least I'm not woozy all the time.
Then I heard about someone who barely know me accusing me of talking bad about her behind her back and that she'd never forgive me ever.
wth.I dont know whether it's true (that she thinks of me that way) because the last time I met her she seemed okay and friendly, and this piece of news did not come from the horse's mouth.
I dont know what to make of it.
Perhaps this is my punishment for reading so much piah before I went for Hajj. (Tu lah dia.. seronok sangat baca orang lain mengutuk orang lain, sekarang kita pulak kena kutuk.. mmmrasakan!)

In other news though,
I am determined to get meself a sewing machine!!
I have set my eyes on a bernina, but I havent visited the shop yet coz of the cold weather and my health. Thinking of asking a friend to come along and help me choose, coz I know zilch about sewing machines.
We have officially launched Ops Jalan Sakan (Operation Travel Lots). It started with that trip to Qatar (I will blog about it soon, I promise!). We're trying to go somewhere interesting and new at least once a month, if health and weather permits. I already have a Desert Rose expedition in Abqaiq, visit to oasis in Hofuf, visit to Old Diriyah in Riyadh, camping in Udailiyah and the week-long road trip to UAE and Oman in our list. Insya-Allah, we'll explore this peninsula as much as we can before we move back home!

So what's up with you?