Wednesday, December 29, 2004

And then came a giant Tsunami

News about the earthquake and the Tsunami has hit the news for a few days now. The number of some deaths have been published, while others still being being searched.

Just the sight of the rows and rows and rows of bodies in Acheh brought tears to my eyes. And the destruction in Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, Maldives, just to name a few, makes me realize how small we humans are in the grand scale of things.

Part of me asked, why God? Why here? Why these people? What did they do to deserve this?

On the other hand I recognize that God Almighty is all knowing and its not my place to ask these things.

These are places where the locals weren't very wealthy. Some are people whose lives dependent on the sea while others on the tourism industry.

And those families on holidays. Perhaps they were just at the wrong place at the wrong time? Or that it was predestined that life will be taken from them like that.

If anything, what is reinforced to me is that life is transient. One should grasp all oppurtunities that is presented to you and relish it while you can.

Because you don't know when your time is up.

You might be taken by a huge tidal wave, a typhoon, an earthquake or perhaps just right at your own front door or even while you're sleeping. Its not to say that one should focus on impending death, but rather recognize it is an eventuality.

Death the Leveller
James Shirley 1506 - 1666

THE glories of our blood and state
Are shadows, not substantial things;
There is no armour against Fate;
Death lays his icy hand on kings:
Sceptre and Crown 5
Must tumble down,
And in the dust be equal made
With the poor crookèd scythe and spade.

Some men with swords may reap the field,
And plant fresh laurels where they kill: 10
But their strong nerves at last must yield;
They tame but one another still:
Early or late
They stoop to fate,
And must give up their murmuring breath 15
When they, pale captives, creep to death.

The garlands wither on your brow,
Then boast no more your mighty deeds!
Upon Death's purple altar now
See where the victor-victim bleeds. 20
Your heads must come
To the cold tomb:
Only the actions of the just
Smell sweet and blossom in their dust.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

What an IDIOT I am!

Guess what! By some fluke accident, I managed to change my template without copying my previous template.
So my blog links and everything else has been erased!

Please leave me your links and your sites if you want me to link my site to your blog.

Will try to correct my silly errors as soon as I can.

:( Talk about itchy fingers!

Part II - A different experience

Back from Bahrain, we headed towards suburban Khobar headed towards the family home of a relative of my travel companion.

Upon arrival at the house, we were pointed to different entrances for men and women. The men entered from the front and the women from the side. At the women's entrance we were greeted by the teenage daughter of the hostess.

As we entered the reception area, we greeted each woman with several pecks on the cheek. With some women it was 3, with some its 4, so I didn't really know how many times it would be considered customary.

We then took off our abayas and sat down. The ladies all kept their shoes on, so obviously this taking-shoes-off in the house thing is a Malay tradition not practiced here.

As I have been warned many times by friends who have been entertained by a S@udi, dinner is a very long drawn affair. I gathered that we were the guests that they have been waiting for as the refreshments were only served after we came.

After about half an hour, we were served with tea or Shay. This was accompanied with mini pizza/sandwiches/pastry type things and assorted nuts.

We ladies did not have to get up to get the goodies. The hostess or her daughter would come round to each and every person, presenting either the tea or the tray in front of each guest.

And so we spent some time with the tea, and the snacks. Talking and chatting, with me mostly listening since most of the conversation was in Arabic.

And then there was the Gahwa (Arabic coffee with lots of cardamom, very bitter as it is not sweetened by sugar but eaten with dates or other sweet pastries). The Gahwa is served in tiny cups (resembles the small Chinese tea cups at wedding ceremonies).

In the meantime the conversation continued. I acquainted myself with some of the Malaysian ladies there, the in laws, whilst the Arab sisters all went out shopping.

I have to mentioned though that I saw a great divide in terms of how the Arab sisters dress and the Malaysian in laws were dressed. The Arab sisters were dressed in their finest, sporting Gucci shoes, LV handbag, French clothes, basically very fashionable. The Malaysian ladies however dressed very simply with their head covered with a scarf, even indoors.

And then there was Keropok and chilli sauce, with sirap Rose merah. (A Malay additional to the ritual I bet.)

In the meantime my cough was getting worse. I tell ya, cough+ nuts + coffee + keropok is a surefire way to lose your voice.

Finally the other sisters came back. It is a transformation indeed as you see them all covered up from top to bottom except for the tiny slit for their eyes, and when all is taken away, they are back in their glamorous selves.

And suddenly there was a flurry of activity. Dinner is ready and we were all invited upstairs where the food is served.

Like a Malay home, dinner was served on the floor. There was a long plastic table-cloth thingy or as the Malays call is Sapra. Everyone rushed to sit down, the very young children sat on a small table and the end while the other women and older children on the floor. Some had plates while others ate directly off the table cloth.

The menu was Kabsah, what we Malays will call Nasi Minyak. Its a cross between Bryani and Nasi minyak as it is not as spicy as the earlier and just as rich as the latter. Lamb kabsah was served with some feta cheese, olives, tomato sambal thingy and some Arab leaves which counts as salad I guess.

As guests we were looked after very well by all. Rice was scooped for us on our plate and the minute it looked like we were finishing, more was scooped onto our plates. Meat was thrown into our plates making sure that we had ample to eat.

After dinner, we washed our hands and headed back downstairs again, where more Shay is served.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Weekend story I - Trip to Bahrain

Over the weekend I was plagued by a horrible cough and I managed to progessively loose my voice.

We were planning a driving to Bahrain, but just the night before the drive I had discovered that we didn't have hubby's passport. It is one of the regulations here that upsets him. His passport is kept by the employer (the company) in exchange for the local identity card called the Iqama. Actually what upset him the most was that he was asked to surrender his passport because he is Asian. He knows that the white-boys in his office wasn't asked to surrender their passports. When he complained to the people involved they said something like this...

"Well we have to collect your passport you see. Because otherwise the Filipinos and the Indians will ask to keep their own passports too!"

Talk about double standards and racism. But they don't even see it as racism anymore. To them its normal, they respect and allow the Westerners to get away with most things and we Asians are considered their slaves, more or less. C'est la vie.

But anyways I was digressing.

So we thought we would drive to the Eastern province and try to find a taxi cab to drive us to Bahrain. This trip was crucial for me because I needed to activate my exit-re-entry visa. They are very obsessed with control here. Should we decide that we want to leave the country at any time, it would be impossible unless we have an exit permit. And to re-enter the country again, one requires a multiple exit-reentry visa. And we would need to use this visa within 2 months of it being issued. Failure to do so will mean a 1,000 riyals fine.

So basically once we applied for one, we need to use it almost immediately.

And so there we were trying to find a way of getting over to Bahrain. Luckily our friend had a contact who could help us. He is a cab driver in Khobar. But we were rather shocked to find out the cost of ferrying us over the border. 250 riyals one way. 500 riyals return. And only to ferry us across the border, not to drive us around town. Hmpphhrrrr.

If I was coughing before crossing the border, somehow my cough stopped bordering me when we arrived across the border. It was such a different atmosphere there. We went to Seef Mall which is one of the bigger Malls in Bahrain. There were lots of people without Abaya both Western and Arabic. And even those wearing Abayas had beautiful coloured ones. People were smiling and there was Music in the Mall. Something that you won't hear in any of the Malls just across the border.

And I know this sounds silly, but I was so taken by the fact that the salespersons at the foodcourt are WOMEN! Smiling women at that! And they were not just the Filipinos/Indian/Bangledeshi but Arabic women as well. Pretty ones too! Such a change for me to see their faces uncovered and serving me with a smile, speaking beautiful English!

Perhaps for the rest of you in the normal world, all these things are normal and common to you. But for me, it is a huge change and a pleasant surprise indeed! At last I feel human again. That as a woman, we are part of the society, not just beings shrouded in black from top to bottom hidden from sight.

But alas, we only had 2.5 hrs there before we would be ferried back across the border. I was really sad when it was time to leave. I bought a box of Leonidas Belgian chocolate to bring back with me. I think I almost cried when I had to put my Abaya on again. Back to the world of blackness.

And my cough came back again!

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

This one cracked me up!

Seen on Harian Metro (Check out the symbolism!):

Karam sebelum belayar (Sunk before leaving port)

SAYA sudah berkahwin sejak setahun lalu. Masalah saya ialah air mani mudah terkeluar walaupun belum memulakan persetubuhan.
Adakah ia disebabkan oleh Am@lan mel@ncap yang kerap saya lakukan ketika remaja dahulu? Bagaimana caranya untuk melambatkan pengeluaran air mani atau klimaks ketika bersetubuh?

If you want to know the expert's answer (jawapan pakar) please click on the link above.

Also, this one also tickles me to no end! Taken from Sorry the link is no longer available.

Kisah Teladan: Dahaga seks di Tanah Suci

APABILA seseorang sudah berada di Tanah Suci, mereka seharusnya mengelak daripada melakukan perkara yang boleh membatalkan ibadat haji. Ini kerana apabila seseorang sudah terbatal ibadat haji, adalah menjadi kewajipannya jika berkemampuan menggantikannya (qada) pada tahun berikutnya.

Itu yang berlaku pada satu pasangan suami isteri, yang tidak tahan godaan hawa nafsu hingga sanggup melakukan hubungan seks walaupun belum melakukan tahalul akhir.

Pasangan itu dengan beberapa kawannya memilih penerbangan awal untuk menunaikan ibadat haji. Mereka tiba di Madinah dan seperti biasa, lelaki dan wanita diasingkan walaupun pasangan suami isteri. Disebabkan ghairah untuk beribadat, masing-masing sibuk dan si isteri asyik dengan rakan wanitanya. Jarang sekali pasangan suami isteri itu dapat ke masjid bersama.

Walaupun berada di Tanah Suci, godaan syaitan tidak ada terhenti. Apabila si suami melihat wanita cantik, rasa ghairah tetap ada. Apa lagi dia sudah hampir sebulan tidak mengadakan hubungan seks dengan isterinya. Maklumlah seminggu dua sebelum berangkat ke Tanah Suci, mereka sibuk mencari barangan keperluan dan melayan tetamu yang datang ke rumah.

Apabila berada di Madinah, si isteri agak dingin dengan soal seks. Sebenarnya sebelum mereka berniat dan memakai ihram, pasangan suami isteri boleh menggunakan ‘bilik berkat’ yang disediakan Tabung Haji untuk hubungan suami isteri. Bagaimanapun, mereka tidak menggunakan bilik yang disediakan kepada pasangan suami isteri.

Selepas lapan hari berada di Madinah, mereka berangkat ke Makkah. Memandangkan mereka sudah berniat ihram, mereka tidak boleh lagi bercumbuan apa lagi melakukan hubungan seks. Seperti jemaah lain, banyak masa dihabiskan di Masjidil Haram.

Selepas berada di Makkah, pasangan itu berangkat ke Arafah. Di Arafah juga lelaki dan wanita diasingkan. Arafah adalah tempat seseorang digalakkan memohon banyak keampunan daripada Allah dan doa yang ikhlas di bumi Arafah akan dimakbulkan Allah.

Dari Arafah, bas yang dinaiki pasangan itu melewati Mudzalifah sebagai salah satu dari wajib haji dan mereka sepatutnya berada di Mina tetapi bas yang membawa mereka terus ke Makkah. Apabila berada di bilik hotel dengan keadaan yang agak sunyi kerana sebahagian jemaah berada di Mina, timbul keinginan suami untuk melakukan hubungan seks dengan isterinya. Si suami begitu dahagakan seks.

Akhirnya pasangan itu melakukan hubungan seks. Ketika sedang berehat, si isteri sempat membelek buku agama yang dibawanya dan alangkah terkejut kerana seseorang jemaah tidak boleh mengadakan hubungan seks sebelum tahlul akhir. Sepatutnya selepas kembali dari Mina, mereka melakukan tahlul akhir, iaitu tawaf, saie dan bergunting. Selepas itu baru dibolehkan melakukan hubungan suami isteri.

Setelah pasangan itu merujuk kepada guru agama maktab, sah ibadat haji mereka terbatal, malah diwajibkan membayar fidyah dengan menyembelih seekor unta. Bukan setakat itu saja, mereka juga jika berkemampuan, perlu qada ibadat haji pada tahun berikutnya.

Bagi haji qada, jika seseorang masih tidak memiliki kewangan yang cukup, mereka perlu menjual sedikit harta benda untuk melaksanakan ibadat itu. Begitulah beratnya haji qada berbanding haji biasa.

Iktibar dari cerita ini, walaupun seseorang berada di Tanah Suci, godaan syaitan tidak terhenti malah semakin mencabar. Ketahanan iman amat penting.

Dalam hal ini, isteri juga jangan bersikap negatif dalam soal seks. Jika suami mengajak berasmara ketika belum berihram hendaklah ditunaikan permintaan suami kerana itu salah satu hikmah daripada berumahtangga.

[Moral of the story if your husband tells you he wants to do it with you, just do it! *LOL*}

Monday, December 20, 2004

Christmas is *almost* here

And I still don't know what Christmas presents to get for my friends. I don't know if they will be giving any to me and if so what should I give them in return. I am horrible at picking Christmas presents!

Last year it was fairly easy, I would just go to my favourite store (namely Marks & Spencers and Crabtree and Evelyn) and buy some gifts for my neighbours. Some cookies perhaps or toileteries. But this time round I haven't given Christmas much thought!


How many more shopping days to Christmas?

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Ban on camera phone lifted


For those of you out there, camera phones were banned here until 2 days ago!

Finally they realize that this is an advancement in technology which they cannot fight against.

Perhaps they realize that it would be impossible to police the Haj pilgrims coming in with their camera phones!


Monday, December 13, 2004

Watering plants

Perhaps those of you reading this is wandering, how hard is it to water plants?

Well obviously I didn't think it was very difficult myself when I accepted the responsibility of watering a neighbour's plants when they were away. Until I was called to her place, and given an orientation of her plant family members!

She obviously love plants very, very much because she has lots of them in her home. Will count them the next time I am there.

But anyways, she keeps a special pail, several bottles and watering cans of water to water her plants. She informed me that she does not water her plants using water that just came from the tap, but rather keeps water overnight in those special containers I mentioned earlier and uses the water from there to water her plants. She also requested that her plants are watered when there is still sunlight and that they are watered every other day.


So yesterday I went again to water these beloved plants. You see, I am one of those people who have this huge fear of responsibility. I made sure that I didn't miss the every other day bit and also made the effort to go in the afternoon before the sun set.

I really don't know how she would react towards me if she found the plants dying when she comes back!!

After all she had fired 2 maids while I was gone. She can't fire me as a friend can she? Or would she?

She told me that she fired the first maid because the maid was unable to clean. She fired the second because the latter broke some of her beloved tiny crystal animals.

Yes, she is a very particular and exacting person.

So there I was at her place, watering her plants. 15 mins tops I thought. Dumm dee dumm dee dum. OK OK I do have to confess! I used the tap water to water her plants! Well what do you expect!! Its hard work lifting pails and bottles! I just wanted to zip through!

And I over watered the plants!!!! (Or perhaps the plants KNEW and REJECTED the tap water I fed them with!!)

Just as I was about to lock up and leave, I noticed trails of water everywhere on the countertop and on the floor near the plants. YIKES!! I quickly picked up a sponge and tried to sponge off the water from the counter top. OOPpsss too late! Her hand made box is a little wet! Oh dear!

And in the meantime, the water from the potted plants behind the couch is threatening to soak up the couch! The very same couch that they brought with them from Austria!!

So there I was, on my hand and my knees trying deperately to soak up the water before any damage could be done to their couch. So much for my 15 minutes job! I don't even get on my hands and knees to clean my own place! (We have carpets so I'd just vaccuum it.)

And so I thought I am now ready to leave. NOT!

As I was walking down the stairs I noticed more water dripping, slowly creeping down the stairs! Almost taunting me, telling me "Yahahahaha you used tap water! And too much too! And we'll tell the plants' owner you did that!"

Grrrrrrrr. So I took off my slippers, grabbed the sponge and the small watering can to hold the water I soaked up and started soaking up the water on the stairs.

I have just recovered from flu and just small tasks like these was wearing me up!

And I went to bed with a huge headache and my knees click everytime I do up and down the stairs! I don't know if its really related or perhaps its just my own guilt!

Will promise to water the plants only with the designated water next time!
Yes I am an addict.

What am I addicted to? The series 24! Thats right! And worst still I have the tendency to watch the whole series back to back. And yes it takes more than 24 hours to watch it back to back because sometimes one have to have a toilet break, stop to make coffee and have a refreshment.

I was introduced to 24 by a dear friend of ours who had the complete series 2 DVD. We didn't have a DVD player then, but we actually went out to get one so we could watch it. And we didn't regret it one bit.

And how do I watch it back to back here? By downloading the whole series online of course!

So now I am free. Jack Bauer saved the day.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

The helicopters are still at it

I can still hear them everyday now. Apparently its for our own security. Especially after the Jeddah attack. Some residents have been told by their companies not to leave the premises after dark. Are we barricading ourselves in?

I haven't gone out since the weekend. Not that I am afraid of terrorist or the attacks but rather I have been down with flu.

Had some guests over on Wednesday night. One couple was two nurses and they told us of interesting stories of the people they encountered with in their ward.

The other was another couple with whom we often hung out with.

Could it be because we have similar mindsets, enjoyed the same jokes that we enjoyed each others' company so much? Or that we are couples without children that we are children ourselves, that we get to enjoy a simple weekend dinner without worrying if the kids are OK at home or if it was past their bedtime or if the food suited the kids.

Could it be if we chose our friends by the simple fact that they are very similar with us, in this case people with no children?

I found that it is true for me in the compound as well. There aren't that many single young people here in the first place. Not ladies anyways. The ladies would have been housed at ladies only compounds. But I found that most of the people I hung out with most often are those coupled without children.

Perhaps it because those with children would be too busy feeding and putting their children to bed anyways. And they would be exhausted at the end of the day themselves. And we wouldn't understand have of their problems or jokes. Or wouldn't we? Or won't we?

Monday, December 06, 2004

Another Day another attack

This time at the US consulate in Jeddah. For awhile now the US consulate in Saudi Arabia has been on high alert. Even the ACS (American Community Services) have been closed permanently until further notice in Riyadh. And this an attack in Jeddah. So far Jeddah has been very much sheltered from the spat of attacks from terrorists. Aside from the shooting of a French man a few months ago, it has been fairly quiet in terms of the terrorist front in Jeddah.

Something brewing

Judging from the show of force form the National guards outside the compound, I did guess that something has been brewing. The tanks that have been covered up all summer, is back on show. And the number of police cars manning road blocks did increase for the past few days. We could also hear helicopters circling in the air for the past two days. They knew that the terrorists are poised for another attack.

I guess its a clear sign that Eid is over and the terrorist have had all the kabsahs and the Eid goodies and are all ready for a fight.

Aren't they suppose to be preparing for Haj?