Sunday, February 27, 2005

The legacy

I have to admit when it comes to wanting new experiences, I'm a bottomless pit. I have this constant need to be trying new things, being it food, hobby, experiences, places and people. It has come as a surprise to me that I have been married for seven years now. Seven whole years and it felt that we only got married a month ago. Or maybe perhaps three months the most. (The first month was the hardest because we had to learn to live with each other.)

I attribute the reason why we're still together is because of his sense of adventure. And that he eats sashimi. It was an important criteria for me.

Last night I dreamed on getting on the plane again. It used to be that we spent a lot of time at airports and transit lounges. In my dream, I had this magic ticket, it was a round trip ticket, I would go out via London and come back via Canada. London, the city where I set up home three years ago. And Calgary, the city where I learned to be independent.

When making travel plans, we are always torn. Torn between going to new places, cities we never visited before and our favourite cities, places we have been and loved.

Perhaps subconsciously I knew that my previous experiences shape me and my perception of the world. Yet that world is drawing further apart for me. Decisions have to be made. Roots are forming. Age and responsibilities are catching up with us.

But I do know, when one door of oppurtunity closes, another would open. Allah is always fair.

I often ask myself, why do I have this thirst for adventure and quest for new things?

My mum passed on at age 49. She was coming to an age when she finally felt that she wanted to travel. But she was not accustomed to travelling alone.

"Each generation should aspire to achieve more than what the previous generation was able to achieve."

Somehow those words stayed with me over the years. Sometimes I wonder if I am compensating for her lack of travel. Its my way of making sure that my generation was better than hers, in that I get the mobility and independence which she didn't get as much. I went the places she wanted to go or perhaps never dreamt of going.

I know its all about predestination. But sometimes, there is a part of me that wonders. What if my time does run out tomorrow? Would I have led a full life? Have I done all the things that I wanted to do in my life time? I am not getting morbid. Its just that I recognize death as an inevitability. Its a certainty in life.

So I aspire to live my life everyday as if its the last day of my life.

Because I do not want to live (and die) with any regrets.

The abandonment

It was a week of pure bliss and unadulterated abandonment.

We decided to go to Makkah a week earlier, to read up on the rites and the history of the Hajj, to read the Quran and to pray as often as we can at the Masjidil Haram.

I never needed to worry about what to wear. Somedays its my abaya, even with my face covered. Other days I wore my telekung. I only needed my trusty, now worn out, slippers which I would put in a plastic bag when we entered the mosque.

Getting a spot in the mosque was sometimes a battle. The nearer it was to the day of Wukuf, the more difficult it was to get a spot to pray.

Somedays I felt like crying when I thought I could not find a spot to pray. And so I asked for Allah's help.

"Please Allah, please let me find a spot to pray."

And lo and behold, a spot opens up for me.

One evening, after saying my silent request I found a small spot in between two people. I had forgotten my own prayer mat in my haste. I wanted to buy a new one but didn't want to spend the time haggling and find myself not getting a spot inside the mosque. And so I prayed on the cold marble floor in a small space between two prayer mats. I thanked Him for giving me the oppurtunity once again to pray there. And then the call for prayer for Magrib. The lady beside me told me to pray on the empty mat she had laid out for her daughter. Her daughter had gone off to the toilet but could not make it back on time. I never felt more grateful, just to be given that prayer spot on a borrowed prayer mat. Alhamdullilah. The small pleasures in life.

Each day we planned our schedules based on the prayer times. Because we stayed somewhat a distance from Masjidil Haram, Subuh was spent at the surau next door for my hubby, and me praying in the room. Thne we would have breakfast. Showered. Rest a little by reading the Quran or our Hajj books. At about 10:30 we would set out for the mosque. We were careful not to set out too late because the traffic gets horrendous as it gets nearer to Dzohor. And we didn't want to be stuck in traffic.

We then quickly walked into the mosque to find places to pray. Hopefully we were fairly near to each other. The Mosque was very crowded and we see lots of different Nationalities there. I tend to try to find a spot near Malaysians. But its not always easy and sometimes beggars cannot be choosers.

The wait can be excruciating on a gassy day. Being alone meant it would be easier for me to squeeze in between people to find a spot. But it also meant that my spot cannot be saved if I needed to take my abolution again. And the walk out to the toilet, was like going to battle.

On some days, it felt like a battle defending my praying space. One day I found myself amongst a group of Malaysians and Indonesians. We had been there very early, making sure that we were comfortably seated. As the time for the call of prayer draws near and the mosque gets more and more full, people would start to squeeze in. I wore my black Abaya that day, and all around me makciks were wearing white. For some reason, some ladies thought that there was space for them to squeeze in beside me. Two tried to squeeze in. The makcik on my right, my new found defender, told them to move forward where she pointed out some space. But a third lady insisted on praying beside me. It was a tight squeeze, we had to watch each other when we prostrated. It was indeed a challenge. But I didn't feel angry or upset. I was redha. I am a visitor here. A mere nobody who has been given an invitation to pray at this mosque. And so had the person next to me. It was a tight squeeze, we just had to live with it.

I learned to abandon my thirst for wordly things that week. I learnt to live with people around me. I learnt that if I asked Allah, and ask him nicely, with full sincerity and honesty, He might just oblige.

And I shared my tight spot for Dzohor and got a spacious spot on a somebody else's prayer mat for Magrib. That was the swiftness of my reward.

And I learned the true meaning of divine retribution. A good dead is replaced by a good dead. And a bad deed, I never want to commit.

I learned to be humble and generous. That it doesn't matter what other humans think of me. Because my Creator knows and sees my every move, both good and bad. And I will be rewarded and punished accordingly.

I did not read the newspapers that week. Because the drama of the world was unfolded before me.

It was sheer bliss, not having to worry of money, wealth, status, all sorts of worldly material things. To just concentrate on checking myself in with my Creator. To ask him to forgive me for the sins I have committed and to show me the light for the rest of my life.

But this few days, I somehow got myself swamped again. Swamped in the distraction of worldly activities. And I have to remind myself, what is important and what isn't.

Please Allah, please give me strength so I can always place my Iman with you. I know I am weak and I am easily distracted. Please give me happiness, good health and peace of mind.


Saturday, February 26, 2005

Want some?

Want some duck? Posted by Hello

Thank you friends for your tips and your generosity in sharing your recipes.

Yes I am a foodie. I am passionate about food. *sigh* My ever expanding waisteline is a testimony to that.

One of the perks of living where I am at the moment, is the availability of Halal food, especially the rare, if not gourmet foodstuff which I yearned to try when I was living in London or travelling in Europe but could not because they were not Halal.

Just the other day, I found duck being sold in the local Safeway. And so I decided to buy one and make my own Roast Duck. Once again, my trusty Gary Rhodes recipe help guide me through the process. (Ok I confess I have 3 Gary Rhodes book and all of Jamie Olivier's books although not all are with me here.)

I also made some orange sauce to go with the duck but unfortunately the sauce didn't look too good because I didn't have a fat separator and my sauce looked more brown rather than orange.

And if you look closely at the top left corner of the picture, you'll see my own dried tomatoes. I make my own oven dried tomatoes now, preserved in olive oil.

I don't know whats the cause of my fascination to duck. Foie grais, duck confit, yummy. Perhaps I am just somewhat bored with chicken, beef and lamb. Although I have not tried camel meat yet.

The crispy skin of the duck is yummy!

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Thank you

Ladies and gentleman :)

Thank you for your kind suggestions.

MakNenek Can you believe it that I do have both Betty Yew's and Zarina's cookbook. But I'd have to say that I didn't like my Zarina book so much.

Will email you about the daging dendeng recipe.

Atn, thats a very good suggestion. Will keep that in mind next time. Actually I did used to serve up the same grub just that I am somewhat nervous because I have this need to out do myself everytime. I know I have issues! *LOL*

And lamb, what is it about Malaysians and not eating lamb? Or is it just some of the Malaysians I met? My in law's family don't eat lamb and hubby only started eating lamb when he married me. I met at least a few other Malaysians who confessed to me that they have never eaten lamb in their lives.

Kampo hehehehe tu kalau kenkawan below age of 15 boleh lah! Buat maggi mewah. Kang adelah pulak yang datang tu cakap "Awak serve maggi je?"

Leen! I want some of your maceroni goreng/pasta dishes/nooodles variety! Bile? LOL
Yes is wonderful. Its a priceless treasure! And I want to taste your lauk kicap please.

Nefertiti, thanks for surfing to my blog and offering to share your mean recipe. Yes please! My email is

And to top it off, my beloved has been very sweet. He suggested that he will buy some lauk from an Indonesian warung fairly near our place.

One of the challenges cooking here actually, is getting the right ingredients. And yes, I have this disease of wanting to please. When I do host, I somehow feel that if I don't have rows of variety of food, then its not entertaining. Perhaps its those years of eating buffet breakfast at hotels.

But anyways that issue has been resolved for me. We will be having Indonesian nasi padang style food (its a treat here as there isnt very many Indonesian restaurants.)

Our weekend here is on Thursday and Friday. Have a good weekend everyone :)

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The rants of a paranoid wannabee hostess

I must say I have one fear, the fear of inviting people to my house.

You see, I am a very private person. I am also messy, I have no head for decorating, actually its more like I can't be bothered. Why? After all those years of living in hotels, serviced apartments, rented accomodation I learnt that its pointless to decorate. Why? Because it will be inevitable that we would have to uproot ourselves again and move on. And when you one moves around a lot, one tries not to get too attached to the current place one lives in.

And yes the messy bit, my husband and I are two people who have a bad habit of leaving a trail of clothes and things all over the place, and not putting things where they are supposed to be. As a result, when we know we are about to have company, we (meaning I) will need to do a major overhaul, collecting socks, pants, ties, trousers, bags, magazines etc. You get the drift.

Its been much better since we moved here. Because I have someone to clean my place once a week. And I am one of those people who clears the house before the maid comes. So its good that she comes once a week because the day before (and sometimes the very same morning) she comes, time will be spent for me to put things away.

Surely, you'd think thats her job putting things away? But I am a little bit of a control freak, I like certain things at certain places so I prefer to put them away myself so I know where to put them. Plus I didn't want her to faint at the smell of our socks. (We'd need her to do some polishing and scrubbing. ;))

But I am digressing.

Yes one of the reasons I was anxious about entertaining is because of our personal mess. Now that we have extra help, I can no longer use that as an excuse.

Next, what should I serve them?

I would say I am an OK cook. Dear hubby, Allah bless him, always liked my cooking. So I have no problems dishing out meals for him. And he eats everything and almost anything I served. But for guests I never know what to cook.

Had to say that I was once traumatized. I had cooked up something western (thanks to Gary Rhodes), it was chicken with mashed potatoes and mushroom sauce. To my horror my guest asked me, "Mana nasinya?" Gulp! But I was cooking a semi gourmet dish! Rice? But errr we don't eat rice everyday ourselves and unfortunately because I never learnt to cook while I was at home, my repertoire of Malay dishes is somewhat every limited.

Don't get me wrong, I am not one of those wannable Mat Sallehs. I have no problems with tempoyak, petai, jering, budu, belacan, gulai etc etc etc. I just don't really know how to cook them very well. When we were in KL, we ate out a lot, so no problems getting Malay food there. Plus I don't like to use santan a lot when I cook, so that rules gulais out. And asam pedas is the only other alternative. I never know how to masak kicap (I think I did it once but thought that it was too much work.) And then masak bening I am not so good at. Well you get the drift.

I learnt to cook for myself at age 21, when I moved to Canada. I never cooked for myself before except for the ocassional maggi mee and telur rebus. I was shooed away from the kitchen when my grandma cooks, because the kitchen was her domain. So its only natural that Western dishes is what I am better at since I learnt Western style cooking and started experiementing with cooking in Canada.

Ok back to the issue of the menu again. So what do I serve them? I find it nerve wrecking cooking for company because I am a sensitive soul as well. What if they didn't like my food? I don't like being criticized for my cooking.

OK! OK! I know I am not perfect. And often enough I am over sensitive. Because I am a homemaker I thought the least I could be is a good cook. So if I my food is criticized I do take it somewhat badly. [I know I have issues about this, could be another blog entry.]

So why bother inviting people over then, you may ask. Dispense with entertaining at home.

Well I have received lots of kindness from my friends who have invited me over to their house. And I feel the need to reciprocate their generosity. Don't want them to think that I was too lokek (stingy) to invite people over to my place. Plus its good for siratulrahim rite?

So pardon me if I tear out my hair a bit more for the next few days. If you have any suggestions what I should serve to a party of twelve, made up of some Malaysian wifes with Mat-Salleh husbands and Malaysians of course, feel free to leave your suggestions preferably with menu as well in the comment box. :)

I do aspire to be a good and gracious hostess. I hoped that I could be a Martha Steward (not the jailbird part though.) Argghhhhhh. Stress!

Monday, February 21, 2005

Bite that tongue

I am somewhat disappointed in myself. Just not too long ago, I had resolved that whatever I say, it must be about good things. But I don't know what overcome me over the weekend, perhaps it was boredom. Perhaps the cold wind froze my brains out. (I know its a lame excuse.) But I managed to betray my promise to myself.

Reminder to self, learn to keep my mouth shut. Bite my tongue when I feel the urge to blurt out a piece of gossip. Take deep breaths, exhale.

I know this, but sometimes I do forget, and words are blurted out before I can think of the consequences of me saying something. And before I know it, its too late.

Its out there in the open. And then it comes back to me.

Sometimes people tell me things. Frankly, I'd rather they didn't because I do not want to burden myself with talk about other people. But sometimes (the devil in me) do like it that I get to hear these stories. Especially the juicy nasty bits.

And I don't know why I do it, I sometimes share it with someone else, with no malice or ill thought. I am naive to think that everyone thinks like me. Shame on me!

At the end of the day, everyone has their own agenda. And I should assume the worst. That perhaps they are collecting that information and then use it as ammunition against others.

When it comes back to me, full circle, I realised that it was possibly my fault. I should have kept my mouth shut, bite my tongue and be quiet.

Its amazing how fast that news circulate too! Just last weekend, I just casually mentioned it to A. I told her, in the strictest confidence of course that, something happened between T and M.

I was silly to think that A will keep it to herself!

And four days later, T mentioned to me that R mentioned to her that A knew about what happened to T and M.

R said, "T, I don't know how but A knows about you and M."

ERKKK! I hope my shock and horror did not show on my face!

I didn't even know that A and T didn't have a good relationship! What have I done?

Realizing that this cannot be undone I have resolved that from now on I will keep my mouth shut!

You see, sometimes the mouth has a mind of its own and blurts out something which the mind knows it shouldn't. Well if that happens again, I shall bite my tongue. Hard!

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Its a tussle

I am still struggling. With my tudung that is.

For the longest time I refused to wear it.

Well, it was more like I felt disinclined to wear it.

And some people, namely my dad, my aunt and uncles did ask me when I was going to wear it.

When my husband proposed to me, I made him promise to me that he will not force me to wear it after we get married and I will only wear it when I feel I am ready for it.

And now I am almost ready for it.

You'd think its easier to wear it here. Almost a rule to wear it even, but where I live, headscarfs are banned from the public areas. Only Western clothes are allowed.

But sometimes I feel embarrassed. I don't want people to judge me differently because I am wearing a scarf. I don't know how my friends will react to me when they see me wearing one.

At a do over the weekend, I was told "S cantiklah pakai tudung." Thank you for that comment. But I didn't wear it to be praised. I was embarrassed almost that the remark was made.

Amongst other comments I received was, "You look very religious wearing a scarf." Hmmmmm I don't know how to react to that. Am I as religious as I look?

I don't have that many scarfs and suddenly there is a need for those that match the colours of my outfit. They sell mainly black ones here and yes I have about 10 black ones. Ask any woman, its not enough. I have cotton ones, chiffon ones, beaded ones, extra wide ones that can cover my face, embroidered ones, sequin ones, woolen ones, pashina ones; you get the drift. But they are all black. I now need to add colour to my scarf collection.

I don't want to look like I have a table cloth on my head.

It is rather obvious that I am unaccustomed to the scarf. I am seen retying it, readjusting it, reshaping it every other 10 minutes.

I recognize I need some practice, that and all sorts of accessories.

Mini scarfs to hold the hair in. Or those that hold the hair back and prevents the outer scarf from slipping. Brooches, pins, clips, hair bands.

I did spend a handsome some on my last haircut. Its a shame that I have to hide it under a scarf.

Its a tussle between me and my vanity. And me and my ever slipping scarf. I sometimes feel my scarf has a mind of its own and tries to runaway from me, perhaps even in shame, because I do not know how to wear the scarf well.

How many ways are there to tie a scarf? How does one coordinate the scarf and one's dress? What is the rule of thumb between the number of scarfs one owns to the rest of one's accessories? Why do I get holes in my scarf when I use pins? How can i use a mini scarf without it hurting my ears!

And I have become slightly deaf when I wear a scarf. I kept asking people to repeat what they were saying because there was three layers of materials covering my ears.

I need a scarf-fashion-non-slip-guide. Help!

Food for Thought

Its unbelievable but its true. I can't decide if I want to smile, cry or laugh. But the writer is able to capture one of the difficulties we face as women here. The excerpt below is taken from

Food for Thought
Tariq A. Al-Maeena,

My niece was recently very excited. She was making her first trip to a city in another part of this country. A frequent traveler to Europe, Asia and the Americas, this was her first trip domestically, and she was looking forward to see what this great country was all about.

Two days into her trip, I received my first call. “Uncle T...Guess what! My mom and I went to an Italian restaurant, and a sign on the door plainly stated that ‘Unaccompanied females without a male guardian are not allowed on the premises’. Can you believe that? My mom and I ended up going back to our hotel and ordering room service”. I could tell from the tone of her voice that she was somewhat agitated.

I tried to mollify her by explaining that this was not the law, otherwise restaurants here in Jeddah and other parts of the country would be posting out such signs. It was probably reflecting the beliefs of the restaurant owner, and I suppose he has the right to deny service to whomever he chose.

I got another call the next day. “Uncle T. You wouldn’t believe it. We tried a Chinese restaurant today, and we made it past the entrance door.”

“Good for you girl. See, there’s hope for you after all,” was my immediate response.

“No, wait Uncle T. After we were seated, we were told that the restaurant served buffet service only. That sounded good to us, as we were keen to look at all the little delicacies on display and sample them, as we liked. However, as we approached the buffet table, a large sign was posted there stating that ‘unaccompanied females without a male guardian cannot approach the buffet table’.

“Now how were we supposed to get any food? When we complained to the waiter, he replied that he would gladly bring food to our table if we told him what we wanted from the buffet. But how could we tell him of our choices if we don’t see for ourselves what we wanted? This is bizarre.”

Her agitation was more obvious this time around.

“Now, now, my dear niece. Look into the brighter side of things. Maybe the owner of this establishment is a health freak and does not want women to help themselves off the buffet tables by overloading their plates. With obesity on the rise, maybe this is his way of showing concern and curbing their caloric intake.

“Or maybe he is just concerned about your safety. As you tread over toward the buffet all covered up, maybe you would trip and fall, thus injuring yourself. He could be saving you from such calamities. Or at least concerned that you do not embarrass yourself by sprawling all over the restaurant floor. Just think how traumatic that would be.

“Or he could be trying to preserve your modesty by not making you the object of unwanted attention as you trek over to the buffet. As a young woman, you should understand what I am trying to get at.”

“Uncle T... enough! You’re just trying to make light of the matter. This is very disturbing.”

“On the contrary, my dear niece, we have a government that sets the standard laws for the Kingdom. And it affords us certain rights. But you also have to understand that different areas in this vast country have their own cultures and traditions. Just because something is normal and acceptable in your city or province does not necessarily make it so in the city or region you are currently visiting.”

“How such people choose to live and what traditions they adhere to is their business and we should respect that. Let them set up their own rules. For their own communities. Whether we agree with their views or not is immaterial, so long as they don’t try to shove it down all our throats and across the land by shrouding such views in a myriad of spiritual edicts.”

Friday, February 18, 2005

Love is just a drug - fabricate it

I was just reading this blog and somehow it made me ponder a little bit more about Love.

What is it about love that everyone seems to be looking for it?

Somehow the answer about love came to me in my 3rd year Psyc course. Love is merely the norepinephrine in our brain. Norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine are three brain chemicals that determine "that affect our ability to fall madly in love." Hightened activity of norepinephrine is associated with focused attention, elevated energy, motivation to win a reward (eg a woman's hand and/or her cherry), elation, obsessional following and object imprinting.

So the so called feeling of being in love is merely a drug induced stupor that our body produce to make us high. And like other drugs, albeit it being natural or man-manufactured, it can be addictive.

So why do we let this drug run and ruin our lives?

I blame it on popular media really. All the TV shows about love. Well actually I personally believe that it is about sex. But selling sex, although it is done, is somewhat vulgar. So they try to sell Love instead. Plus sex is still very much a taboo topic in many societies, even in the so called "open" socities.

What is it about sex that people seem to crave for it and it sells very well? Because it appeals to the penis? And somehow men are ruled by their penises? And what about the women? What's their stake in that?

Love for men is all about the sex, but for women on the other hand, its about being wanted. As a woman, I do feel good that I am wanted. And being wanted means I am being loved (which is not necessarily the same thing actually.)

All this sounds like I need to do a lot more research and reading and I have a feeling I can easily turn this into a thesis. (If not enough people have been writing about this already of course.)

I also recognize that men and women see love differently. As the saying goes, Men give love for sex, and women give sex for love. Sounds vulgar, cheap and unromantic. But thats the way it is.

For me, in a relationship, its not the "being in love" that makes a relationship work. Its commitment, loyalty, understanding and keeping each other happy that matters.

If all you look for is the feeling of being in love, then all you'll ever be is the hunter who never quits hunting. (And that supports another theory of psychology!)

Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Renaissance woman

Kak Z is one whom I would consider as a Renaissance woman.

She was sent to Cairo to study while she was still young. Got married and 13 and delivered her first child at 14. In the meantime she did not quit her studies. She sent her eldest newborn back to her mum, while she continued her studies with her husband.

He was doing his Masters then, and she her degree. And it was at Al-Azhar University!

During their summer vacations they would go to Europe to work so they can support themselves. She says for just 40 days of work, the wages can support them for a whole year in Cairo. Sometimes he would set off first and she would follow suit later. The mode of transportation was by ship. Imagine a young girl alone on a ship during those times? Sometime times they worked along side each other, other times they had to split up to different countries.

One year, she told me, her husband worked in Denmark while she worked in Sweden. I was terribly impressed. I have not had the chance to visit either Denmark or Sweden. So I asked her if she could speak Swedish, she said, yes, just enough to get by.

So I asked her what languages she knew. She could speak Arabic, Malay, Thai, English, Kelantanese Malay and some Swedish. And she understood formal Quranic Arabic as well! Imagine that!

What did she work as those summers? She said in Holland they look after roses. They picked the roses, got rid of the thorns and packed them for the florist. At the other places, she did whatever she could do; clean people's houses etc. Basically she was not shy of working hard.

When her husband was still alive, she was a full time housewife and she worked from home. She taught women how to read the Al-Quran.

But since her husband passed away, she needed a more feasible income to put her children through school and university.

And what does she do now? She is both a shepherdess and a designer! Imagine that! She owns a boutique that caters for weddings. She designs the dresses for the future brides and the bridesmaids and hires some workers to become her seamstresses, to put her design ideas to work. She must be doing very well because she says there is a 6 month waiting list.

And how much would a bride spend for her wedding? A few thousand dollars. On average for one wedding she prepares between twenty to forty dresses. Some for the bride herself, for the various ceremonies, others for the bridesmaids, bride's mum and possibly brides sisters as well.

On certain months (namely during the Hajj months) she sells sheep. I asked her if she did well last month and she said they managed to sell 30,000 sheep. How does one goes about selling sheep I asked her. Surely its not a common profession for a woman. She said in the beginning it was fairly hard. She had to physically get down to the sheep pen, looked at every single one of the sheep, inspect them because each sheep needed to be branded and graded. Imagine that!

Slowly, she said, she taught her eldest son how to look and label the sheep. And slowly he is helping her in handling the sheep.

This year she had 10 workers working for her in slaughtering the sheep. But they didn't need to slaughter all the sheep. Some were bought by various Hajj pilgrims and slaughtered at a different slaughter houses.

And her working philosophy continues to astound me. She says, even while doing business one must be generous to one's rivals. If her sheep were all sold out, and she has a regular customer coming back to her asking for more, she would direct her customer to her rival business whose shop is next to her.

"Kita kalau berniaga ni tak boleh dengki. Dia selalu sangat dengki kepada saya. Iri hati kalau tengok kambing saya cepat habis. Saya tak tamak, saya jual tiap ekor untung $50 sahaja. Jadi orang ramai beli dari saya. Bila kambing saya habis, saya tolong jual dia punya. Lama-lama dia segan dengan saya."

"Kerana rezeki ini semua Allah yang bagi. Kalau kita lokek dan tamak nanti Allah tak beri kita lagi. Kalau kita murah hati, Insyallah Allah nanti murahkan rezeki kita."

Her talents and fearlessness is remarkable!

That is how generous Kak Z is, always sharing with me her life experiences and her life philosophies. I realize that what goes around really does comes around. For everything we do, we have to be generous and kind to people and if we work hard at whatever we do, Allah will repay us handsomely for it.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

A blog bites to dust

I was surprised to find that one of the blogs I often read, The Gongkapas Times by Dina Zaman has been taken down. Apparently its for personal reasons.

Well Dina whatever it is, its a shame to let your blog go. Hope it will be up and running again. Good luck on both your personal and professional front. It was a pleasure reading it your blog.

Take care.

Monday, February 14, 2005

The Love of a Mother Part 2

Kak Z's eldest daughter is currently doing her PhD in Malaysia. She always impressed upon her children the importance of education. Her second daughter has a Masters in Communication. Her third daughter graduated with a degree in Psychology, her fourth son is doing IT and her youngest son is in secondary school.

"My late husband told me, there are only two things that are important when raising children. The first is that they pray 5 times each day and the second is that they get very good education."

"It was a challenge for me when the children were younger. I made sure I personally sent them to school every morning. And I would wait outside the school gate, in my car, for at least half an hour after my son got off the car, to make sure that he does not leave the school premises. I wanted to make sure that he wasn't playing truant. I wanted to make sure that he had a good education."

If that is not dedication, I don't know what that is.

She struggled financially to send her daughters to study in Malaysia. The tuition fees was not cheap and sometimes her relatives questioned her on how she had the money to send them to study there.

"Sending three girls abroad to go to University must cost a bomb, where is the money coming from?"

"Do you have a husband in Malaysia to support you?"

Truth was, she worked. She worked very hard to put the children through University. (What she does for a living is another fascinating story!)

All she told them, "Allah helped me. The money came from Allah. I asked Him for help and He helps me provide for my children."

"Ini lah mulut orang, mereka nak fitnahkan saya bila tengok saya dapat hantar anak saya belajar di University di luar negeri. Tapi saya sabar. Tiap hari sembahyang Istiharah, minta pada Allah."

One day her daughter called her from Malaysia.

"How are you doing F?" she asked her daughter.

"Not so good Mum, one of my Professors is finding fault with me. I don't know what I did wrong. He doesn't seem to want to help me with my thesis or even explain to me why he is rejecting my thesis," lamented the daughter.

Kak Z got very restless. As a mother she doesn't want her daughter to struggle. And she wants to make things easier for her daughter.

"Tell me the name of your Professor and I will say his name when I tawaf round the Ka'abah," she told her daughter.

And off she went to Makkah. She told us that she did the tawaf 8 times.

8 times!? I did a quick calculation, 7 times 8 is 56. That is 56 times round the Ka'abah! And I can tell you thats not an easy feat!

"Well you see, I was really sad for my daughter. Everytime after I finish each Tawaf, I will perform a solat sunat. And I didn't stop until I felt at ease. If I was still feeling uneasy I did a tawaf again. I did it so many times that the female guard at the Ka'abah asked me if there was something wrong. She asked me why I was crying. And I told her I have an issue with God and I will resolve it with Him."

"On one of the rounds I had difficulty looking for a place to perform my solat sunat. The female guard practically lifted me and put me on a different spot, which was right in front of the door of the Ka'abah."

"I asked Allah to please help my daughter. To please soften the heart of her Professor so he will help her with her thesis."

"Only when I felt at ease, I stopped performing the tawaf."

"A week later, my daughter called again from Malaysia. I asked her if her Professor was still giving her a hard time. And she told me that he is much kinder and nicer to her now."

That is the extent of the love and dedication of a mother. She is willing to sacrifice it all and do whatever it takes for her children to succeed.

Do we as children have the same sort of dedication to our mothers?

A mother can take care of 10 children, but can 10 children take care an old ailing mother with the same love and dedication?

Sunday, February 13, 2005

The Love of a Mother Part 1

Going round to Kak Z's is becoming part of the umrah trip for me. I am sometimes too embarrassed to visit her as she treats us too well. On the first time we met her, she asked us to sleep over at her place. On the second visit, she fed us dinner, calmed us down, prayed for us and made sure we got into Mecca safely. And on my third visit, she made me cry. Not because she was mean to me but because her stories touched me.

Kak Z is a single mum of five children. The children are much older now but she recounted to us the time when she was struggling to put them through school. On one year, she was a little short of cash and it was time for the schools to reopen. She needed some money to buy new books for her eldest son but she had some difficulty withdrawing money from the bank because her ATM card was damaged. She told her son that she would buy him one book for the first day so that he can copy down what he needed for each class, and tear out the used pages for the next class. (Don't want the teacher to notice that he wasn't using a new excercise book for the new school year.) But the son, being young, grumbled and cried.

"Mum! its my first day of school! Why can't I get new books like everyone else? Do you think my friends won't notice that I will be tearing up the used pages? What if my teacher scolded me for not having all the books needed in school?"

And which mother will let her child go to school without his books knowing that his friends may make fun of him or his teachers might scold him? She searched high and low round the house but she really did not have any money at hand at that time. And it will take a few days for her to sort out the bank account card.

She was really sad, and she couldn't do much about it except to pray. She prayed to Allah to help her and her children. She prayed for him to give her strength. She prayed for him to show her the way to solve her problem.

Then she decided that she will pawn off one of her gold necklace. It was a gift from her late husband but it was more important to her that her children will go to school happy.

When she and her children open the door to go to the shops, they saw two huge cartons outside the door.

"What's this?" the boys asked.

In the boxes were new books for the school year. There were quite a few of them too! Also there were two plastic bags containing thobes (local men's dresswear or jubah in Malay.) The children were overjoyed.

"But children, these items do not belong to us. Put it back at once! Perhaps it belongs to our neighbours and some one may have put it at our doorstep by mistake!" She cried.

"But Mother look, there are two envelopes here and each envelope had our name on it," cried the elder of the boys who could now read.

"It must be ours!"

And in each envelope was $1,000. A gift literally from the sky. From a kind and nameless benefector.

"It came from Allah," she said. "Perhaps He inspired one of my late husband's friends or neighbours to be generous to us. At my darkest hour, the gifts came."

Up till today, she still doesn't know who the generous benefactor was. But the timing of the gifts was impleccable!


Her story really reduced me to tears. Because it made me realised how lucky I was and how selfish I have been. I almost blew some money on another handbag I don't need. (It was Prada afterall!) And there I was hearing the struggle of a single mother, bringing up her orphaned children.

How very selfish I have been! What am I so afraid of? Whatever difficulty I have experienced in my life, it is nothing compared to what this admirable woman had to go through!

Perhaps this was Allah's way of telling me not to be afraid. That with every problem he posed us, he will give us a solution, if we asked Him to help us.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Cooking class

"I don't think I want to handle the prawns, I am allergic to prawns," I said.

"Oh she is allergic to prawns," said D to L.

"Ah lots of Filipinoes are allergic to prawns," said L.

"I had a Filipino maid who was allergic to prawns," continued L.

Here I was in a cooking class that is costing me a bomb, with women at least 10 years older than me.

At the end of the day, I am still facing racism and social stereotypes.

I wanted to tell her,

1. I am not Filipino.
2. I am not a maid.
3. 2/2 does not mean 100%.

But I didn't. I could not be bothered. She was making an assumption based on what she knew. She thinks that all Asians here are Filipinos or that no matter where we come from we are the same. Why should I be upset by her ignorance?

Perhaps I could enlighten her a little. And perhaps by not being bothered to do so, I will reinforce the misconception and prejudice.

Or perhaps it is I who is prejudiced. Perhaps it is I who is over sensitive?

So whats wrong if people think I am Filipino? And what's wrong if people think I am a maid? Surely its not what people think that matters? Surely if they don't matter to me, so why should I care what they think of me?

I was beginning to regret signing up for this class a little bit. The recipes were not new to me. The people, not the sort I would normally hang out with.

But I always want to try something new. I am always in search of a new experience. Am I getting old and jaded? Should I have just given away the money to feed the poor?

Friday, February 11, 2005

Spring cleaning

How long does one need to clean one's soul?

Especially if its an overhaul that one needs. Can one hire one of those cleaning company to clean it up for you?

I always strive to be a better person and a better humble servant. But its been too easy to get side tracked. And I do get side tracked way too easily, be it shoes, Prada bags, gossip, the normal deal on wordly things.

What does it take to achieve a balance on things?

Monday, February 07, 2005

I knew it!

You Are 26 Years Old


Under 12: You are a kid at heart. You still have an optimistic life view - and you look at the world with awe.

13-19: You are a teenager at heart. You question authority and are still trying to find your place in this world.

20-29: You are a twentysomething at heart. You feel excited about what's to come... love, work, and new experiences.

30-39: You are a thirtysomething at heart. You've had a taste of success and true love, but you want more!

40+: You are a mature adult. You've been through most of the ups and downs of life already. Now you get to sit back and relax.

For the longest time I still thought that I was 25. And doing this survey, does look like I have only aged a year. :)

whispers in the wind

The wind is whispering, bringing news of change. I don't want to hope. For hope can sometimes bring disappointment. But I saw light at the end of my tunnel. Although I was beginning to be comfortable in my tunnel. But I can't help feeling somewhat excited and afraid.

I had asked for change and there is a hint that perhaps change will come my way.

Be careful what you ask for, sometimes you will be given what you ask for, but not in the way you imagined it to be.

Please God, I just want to be happy and be loved, constantly, in this life and the next life.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Its Official! I have no human interaction skills!

I am one of those people whom if you met in real life for the first time, you'd probably think I am either snooty or boring. I really don't know how to break the ice with people. I don't know what to say or what to do. So I just keep very quiet. And I am too shy to be the first person to say Hi. And I am lousy at getting to know people.

But on the net I am something else. Thank God for the internet or I would still be unmarried by now and probably will have very little friends.

One very good example is Kak Teh. I saw her round London a few times. Perhaps at the old Malaysian Hall or the airport. But did I ever say "Hi" to her or introduce myself or say anything to her? I didn't. Was too shy. Won't even know what to say and too afraid to say something wrong.

Then came Pok Ku's blog chat channel. Came across Kak Teh on chat. Read her blog. Talked to her a little. Saw her picture and realised that I've seen her around. Three years in London, a few times we met but we never did talk. Until we met again in Cyberspace.

The wonders of cyberspace.

Just a thought

My husband sometimes says something that just sets my mind off.

"Why is it that people think that their lives are a lot more complicated than it actually is?"

"Because we want to find some sort of meaning to our lives," I volunteered.

"But isn't our existence in this world to beribadah to Allah. How much simpler can it be?"

Where did that come from? The Friday sermon?

Friday, February 04, 2005

Just a normal Friday in the Magicland

We went to Carrefour to get some groceries. After making the payment, I made a quick inspection of the receipt and found that I was charged $16.50 for "pickled garlic in herbs." Ok I do like my garlic but I was quite sure that was not the price stated on the bar code. So I went into the shop again to check the price on the shelf (just to make sure because I have been known to be mistaken before.) $5.50! Thats the price on the barcode on the shelf. This has happened to me before so I defly took out the price tag code and brought it to the cashier to complain.

One of the supervisors saw that I looked clearly perplexed and asked me what was wrong. I told him that This price code that I was holding stated that the pickled garlic should cost $5.50 and not $16.50 that I have been charged with. They had a mini conference.

So I rumaged through my shopping and showed them the offensive item. They scanned the bar code on the offensive item and true enough the price came up as $16.50.

"Its correct!" said the supervisor.

No its not! So I showed them another bottle of pickle which I bought, same brand, same size except that it was "pickled garlic with chilli" and it cost $7.50. There is no way the plain one cost more expensive than the ones with chilli and I even have the price tag-code to prove it.

But the computer is ALWAYS correct! They did not know how to rectify it!

And the shop was about to be closed for prayers. Oh well.

So I decided to refund the item instead.

This country still continues to astound me.

Thursday, February 03, 2005


[Caution rant in progress. Please do not read if you are not interested in the rant of a tired, annoyed and pre-menstrual person]

I am tired of being told what to do.

"Did you doa in Arafah and asked for children?"

I was close to saying, if it was something that I really wanted, I would have. Did you think that I was an idiot and not asked for the things I wanted?

Why do people always assume that what they want is what I want? Or what I want is similar to what they want?

So I gave an answer which I thought was a diplomatic one.

"I asked Allah for abundance in rezeki. If he feels that I should have children then he will give some to me. Afterall he knows what is best for me, shoudn't he? And afterall its all been predestined? I am not one of those who want children very badly, if we get it, fine we'll be thankful. If we don't, I am happy with what I have been given and I am grateful with what I have."

I am tired of explaining this to people. I wish they would stop asking. I am happy where I am and with what Allah has given me and with what I am doing. Why should I need to explain these things to people? Its none of their business anyways?

What I am most unhappy about is that I feel that the question is very intrusive but they, on the other hand, don't think so. Might as well ask me, hows your sex life? [But I don't want to go there either because someone actually told me her husband uses condom as a ploy to find out what we do in bed.]

People always seem to think that they know best and try to tell me what they think is best for me. I normally let it be. In comes one ear and out the other. But after awhile, the ears do get tired and the heart bleeds a little and the mouth inclined to say unpleasant things. And I don't like being nasty for I know I am a horrible person when I am nasty. Just don't corner me.

For the record, I do want a trip round the world. I want to go to every country and terrain there is. Perhaps I don't just want just one trip but a lifetime of trips. I want to jump off a plane with a parachute. I want to learn to speak many different languages, including I hope Arabic. I want lots of books to read. Recently I found out that if I knew good grammatical Arabic, it will mean that I could read all the reference books on Hadith and Sunnah. But I unfortuntely I haven't even finish reading the translated version of the Quran. I had one week to read the translated version and suddenly all the verses made more sense to me and I do want to read more.

And they thought they needed to tell me how else I should fill my time? Even the 24 hours I have at the moment is not sufficient!

Perhaps if I chat less online then I would have more time to read. But I do love the characters and friends I meet online. I guess these people are different than those I meet here. They are people, directly or indirectly, whose company I have chosen or seek out to because they stimulate and interest me. And its not because we are stuck in one geographical location because our husbands have been chosen to work here.

Yes I am an intellectual snob. I yearn for intelligent and thought provoking conversations. Or witty funny ones. I do like gossip yes but just not all the time. I like to ponder about life, the universe a little bit but they just found me too weird. They needed to change me to be one of them.

I am tired of the old housewives sort of conversations, "Kalau nak anak lelaki main sekali sekali, nak anak perempuan main selalu-selalu. Pakai Nona Roguy tu serasi." That sort of thing can be entertaining yes but ARGHHHHH!!!!!!!!! Enough already!

Sorry I am being cranky. Perhaps a little caustic and also a snob. I guess I am an hermit crab, I just want to crawl in my shell with my DSL internet connection (hopefully uncensored,) with lots of books and my credit card to do all my online shopping. And I will stay in my shell until I am tired of being alone and will then seek out some human company.

But tonight I have to go for another kenduri.

Will write on my right palm, "Smile and keep your mouth shut" and my left palm "listen and look interested."

Hope that will work. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Haji mabrur?

So with a wildly beating heart, S drove to the side of the road. My heart had sank so many times that trip I didn’t think it could sink any lower. I recited my Talbiyah in my heart and said many silent prayers. I finally decided that I really want to do this journey.

Please God, I really, really want to do this. I may have been undecided or clueless but I am really submitting myself to you. Please accept my submission.

I gave the papers to S, and he and one of the Ustaz got off the car to greet the policeman. The other Ustaz stayed in the car with me. We sat there quietly, not knowing our Fate.

I thought, here we are, so many miles away from home. Making this journey that has been littered with some obstacles. I took the obstacles as little tests, tests to ensure that I am going with a pure heart, making sure that I am going for the sole purpose of submitting myself to Allah and nothing else. We had that car accident, we had difficulty in getting the visa and we minor hiccups with the arrangements. Despite all that, here we are. At an extra checkpoint. And there was nothing else I want in the world right now rather than to soldier on this journey have I have begun to undertake. There is no turning back. I don’t want to turn back.

According to the hadith from Sahih Bukhari, Vol 4, Book 52, No 43, Narrated by Aisha;

“The best Jihad (for women) is Hajj- mabrur (Ie Hajj which is done according to the Prophet’s tradition and is accepted by Allah.)

And so here was my battle. The beginning of one of the biggest battles of my life, waiting in our car, for our fate to be decided by Allah and a policeman.

S came back to the car. The Ustaz accompanying him said, “He just wanted to get to know us better” and smiled.

Apparently they were greeted with “Hajj mabrur?” to which they replied with a smile and an answer, “Umrah.”

Yes Umrah was the first order of the day as soon as we arrive in the Haram area.

The Policeman apparently asked them where they were from and what they were doing there. As soon as he got satisfactory answers, he let them go.

And with that we drove on, directly to Haram. And I never felt more ready for this journey.

Kak Z called to find out if we managed to go through the checkpoint. I said yes, Alhamdullilah, we managed to get in and she reminded me to do two ra’kaat of solat kesyukuran (prayer of gratitude). I thanked her for her reminder and kept a small note to myself to remember to do it.

And on to battle ….

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

From home to Taif, then Makkah?

Two weeks prior to the day of Wukuf, we set off to Makkah. Why two weeks you may ask. It is because we wanted to go through the journey with our chosen Ustaz with our own arrangements and our own terms. And to go for Hajj one needs a special "visa" even though we live in the country. And to get one of these visas one would have to join a local group, something we didn't want to do.

So the alternative was to get in early, and we thought, why not. Spend some time at the Masjidil Haram, soak in the atmosphere, prepare ourselves and reading up. You see, we haven't been cramming for the trip. Yes we attended a talk or two, read a few pages of the books we had, watched the first 5 minutes of a 5 part VCD. As soon as we made the decision to go, somehow we were rushed for time. There was always a dinner invitation there or meeting up with someone here or errands to run, groceries to get, TV shows to watch, the usual things we clutter our lives with. Soon it was time to go and I didn't quite finish packing until the day before the drive itself.

Perhaps at the back of my mind, I knew I was not ready to go but at the same time I knew that there is no such thing as being REALLY ready. There are some people who prepare years prior to their trips. They go for year long "kursus" (courses) talked to people who went etc. But that wasn't us. We decided about three months that we were going, had one meeting then, and then another meeting to book the accommodation, agree on cost for transportation etc. And suddenly it was time to go. I didn't manage to read up on anything at all, just the knowledge that our group is relatively small and we would have the good guidance from the Ustaz.

What made me decide to go then? It was partly geography, we are already in the country and I also believe in seizing the opportunity when it is presented to me.

Because I also know that not everyone has the privilege of being invited. Not every Muslim make it in their lifetime. Sometimes its economical reason, sometimes spiritual and sometimes just fate for death claims them before they get the calling. Thus recognizing that, I braved myself, accepting the call to present myself there. And I am very glad I did. And will gladly go again if given the chance, Insyallah.

Getting in was already tricky. We didn't have the Hajj visa because we made our own arrangements and we were aware that we could be forced to turn back at the border of the Holy land (Tanah Haram) and that will be the end of our trip. We were lucky to get two budding Ustaz(s), students at the Imam University to accompany us on the drive there. We needed interpreters and they needed a ride so it was a symbiotic relationship.

We set off at 7 am. I didn't sleep much the night before because I was wildly excited. It was exciting for me as it was the day before my trip to Europe and Japan last year! Mind you I had gone for Umrah just a week prior to this, but that wasn't the same. THIS will be THE trip.

At the first checkpoint, we were already thankful for the company of our fellow Ustaz. The police manning the checkpoint asked something in Arabic. All S understood was "Kam" meaning "how much." So he thought the policeman was asking him how much was he speeding. But it turned out that the policeman was asking S the price of the car. LOL! Price of the car? After telling the guy how much the car was purchased at, we drove off feeling flabbergasted.

Along the way to Makkah, we stopped at Taif, at the house of the lovely Kak Z. She persuaded us to sleep overnight at her place but we told her that we wanted to push on that very night because we were afraid that the police had begun their checks and we wanted to make sure that we could get in. And so we set off.

We drove to the designated Miqat to state our intentions. The men and I were already in our Ihram (the male pilgrim garb consist of 2 pieces of cloth that has no stitching on them, the women can wear anything as long as her aurat is covered) and we stated a conditional Ihram,

"If I am prevented by an obstacle, my place of freedom from this state will be wherever You hold me up."

And so off we went. My heart was beating wildly and I was reciting the Talbiyah;

"I am here O Allah, I am here. I am here, You have no partner, I am here. Verily, all praise, grace and dominion are Yours, and You have no partner."

We arrived at our first checkpoint amidst the sound of the Isyak prayers. The police seeing the men in ihram, asked for their papers to verify that they were Muslim and waved us off. We heaved the sigh of relief but we knew that there will be more checkpoints.

The road from Taif to Makkah is a winding road that passes around the high Hada mountain. It was spectacular and frightening at the same time as the local drivers have low tolerance for cars moving at speed limit and chooses to overtake whenever they please.

And at the end, just before entering the city limits of Makkah, another checkpoint. We all were saying our prayers and held our breath. To our surprise, the police asked to see our papers and waved us away. I called Kak Z to say that we went through the checkpoint allright and heaved a sigh of relief.

But little did we know that there was to be another checkpoint. We drove up to a police officer. Upon seeing our Iqama, he referred us to his officer. We were told to drive to the side.

Is this where our journey ends?