Wednesday, March 30, 2005
Posing with our certificates
Graduates of the cooking classes with Quattro Restaurant Manager John Saliba and its illustrious chef, Shahram de Contades. (AN photo)
Top Chef Gives Cooking Classes
Lubna Hussain, Arab News
JEDDAH, 24 March 2005 — A sumptuous gala dinner early this week marked the climax of the six-week “Cooking Classes” held at the Four Seasons Hotel. Attended by 16 of the 18 participants, the evening at the London Banqueting Room was a fitting end to the culinary session.
Renowned for their quality of service and attention to detail, the management and staff of the Four Seasons Hotel provided a truly unforgettable evening for all those involved in the form of a professional graduation ceremony that served to commemorate this wonderful achievement. Roses, certificates and rapturous applause greeted all the amateur chefs in an event that was hailed as a resounding success by all present.
Organized by pioneers Kaye Howe and Dawn Shuttleworth in conjunction with the manager of Quattro Restaurant, John Saliba, and its illustrious chef, Shahram de Contades, the six sessions managed to attract a cosmopolitan crowd of aspiring Anton Mosimanns with most corners of the globe being represented.
Indeed there were people from as far afield as Singapore, Germany, the United States, the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand as well as Middle Eastern nationals. This fabulous diversity was amply reflected in the sheer range of international dishes covered during the course.
Saturday mornings took on a different dimension at Quattro Restaurant. Preparations for such a program had been extensive and involved the procurement of the finest and freshest ingredients, as well as the establishment of several cooking stations within the eatery itself. Each lady was provided with her own Four Seasons apron, a binder with all the detailed recipes covered, and a unique CD incorporating all the recipes that included a section on frequently asked questions.
The attendees were regaled with easy to follow demonstrations by Chef de Contades and were guided through a step-by-step preparation of the menu of the day. This covered an extensive array of sauces, dips, entrees, main courses and desserts, supplemented by expert tips that previously only the top connoisseurs were privy to.
In order to introduce a more dynamic element into the classes, the students were given the opportunity to work in the pastry kitchen and were even taken up to the grill to prepare a barbecue. The whole concept incorporated flexibility, entertainment and enjoyment and perhaps the most memorable aspect was the camaraderie that had developed amongst the group itself.
Doris Barber, an American who has an interest in recipes, but not in cooking said: “I just thought it was a lot of fun. The chefs were delightful to work with and it was enjoyable and enlightening. I also discovered through some of the ladies new places to shop.”
Such sentiments were echoed throughout the gathering. Zaina Al Turk commented, “It is so important to apply what you have learnt. The demonstration meant that we had interaction with the chefs who came round to each station tasting our efforts and this afforded us the opportunity to correct any mistakes.”
“It was so excellent, educational and well-organized. I had so much fun that if there is another course like this in the future then I would definitely return,” enthused Yasmeen Sullman from the States.
For the record I have only tried making the oven dried tomatoes. *LOL* But I so did enjoy the graduation dinner and I met lots of wonderful ladies through the class.
Sunday, March 27, 2005
Sign said "Nice present for your Father or Friend"
For EUR5.50 you can take a chocolate bobbies home
Would anyone really buy something like this for their father? LOL
How I came across these "goodies" was that I noticed lots of people (mainly Japanese tourists) taking pictures of the window display. To satisfy my curiosity I too when to check out the window display and of course I had to take some pictures too!
I wonder if anyone can tell what cup sizes they are?
Saturday, March 26, 2005
I have often been asked to explain something about body memories (or somatic memory). The word “somatic” refers to the soma, the body. Somatic memories (body memories) are common in those who have experienced trauma. Science has demonstrated for us that trauma and abuse have a long-term physiological impact on our bodies as well as our minds.
“Because the part of the brain in charge of survival basically takes a ‘memory snapshot’ of elements considered part of the danger of the [event], associations to the original event fuel fears, hyper-reactivity or disconnection” (Heller & Heller, 2001).
Although scientists have associated somatic memories mainly to trauma and abuse, I would like to suggest that somatic memories also works for happy occasions, when the body remembers happy memories.
“I wish I could get some Pierre Marcolini chocolates here. Do you think they’ll open a franchise here?” he said as he nibbled on some Leonidas which I bought in Bahrain a few weeks back.
It was a cold March Saturday morning and we walked on the cobbled pavement uphill. We were in search of breakfast, a café perhaps for croissant and coffee. We found a cozy little place where the patrons looked right out of a postcard picture. A middle age gentleman, with moustache and dark rimmed glasses sipping his coffee as he was reading the Belgian newspaper.
Across him, a couple, a woman with a pretty blue scarf round her neck smiling as she daintily bit on her croissant with her male companion.
We walked into the darkened café and found a seat at the back. Does the waiter speak English? Not too much. But he understood that we wanted two coffees and 2 pain au chocola. They were playing some Belgian (or French I won’t know the difference) music in the background.
A breakfast tavern in the day and a pub at night. Cafes are very much a European lifestyle.
After paying for our breakfast, we strolled along the cobbled pavement of Place du Grand Sablon. It was early yet and we didn’t really know where to go. We just enjoyed the damp and grey March morning.
I came across this shop that displayed some boring looking, square shaped chocolates and lovely looking cakes in the window. Pierre Marcolini. Never heard of them. Godiva was just round the corner, should we be getting those instead?
He always preferred the road less travelled. He knew that I was concerned that we may not afford the little luxuries. He knew that I wanted to go in, but I was somewhat afraid.
Lets go in there, he said as he pushed the door. The shop was somewhat chilly but a hint of bitter chocolate floated in the air. I saw rows and rows of little chocolate goodies. I was enthralled. Like a child who has just entered a sweet shop.
I don’t know what to order. I don’t know how to order.
He asked for the price list and I savoured each display panel. So many of them!
What shall we have? The dark ones of course!
“Please could we have 250 g of all your dark chocolates, two of each piece,” and just a few more pieces in a plastic bag for us to try.
I was too shy to ask for a sample.
Like two children, we could not wait to sample our purchases. I was adamant that we should only open the box when we get home. I wanted to saviour every moment. The unopened box to me represented a promise, a promise unused and unopened, that sat just there waiting for me. And I would smell its bittersweet aroma everytime I opened my closet. (I keep my chocolates in my closet don't ask me why but it does leave a lingering chocolaty smell in my closet.)
He on the other hand, wanted some right away. He popped one into his mouth and smiled.
“These are no good, don’t think you’ll want any of them,” he said unconvincingly.
I gingerly grabbed a piece from the plastic packet and popped it into my mouth. It was sublime. It wasn’t too sweet like English chocolate (The EU wanted to label English chocolates as candy rather than chocolate.) It wasn’t too bitter that it overpowers the taste bud. There is a lovely balance between the bitterness of the dark chocolate and the richness of the flavour.
Even though we sampled other chocolates in our trip and the subsequent trips, Pierre Marcolini has remained our favourite.
Mr Pierre Marcolini, if you ever read this, please, could you open a shop in the Middle East? We are so in need of good, real chocolates.
Its exactly two years, 4 days since we first tried Mr Marcolini’s chocolates. The body remembers and asked for more.
Honey, thank you for the lovely memories.
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
We were laughing with Doris. I identified with Doris's frustration when it comes to looking for the tv remote.
"My husband said he left the remote right there on the coffee table and lo and behold it was right there! I swear I looked for it there like 10 times but did not find it."
And we laughed even harder, although we were not trying to be mean to Doris or anything. But she was smilling and she'sa good sport.
"But you know what, I have a theory about it. Its my parallel universe. That my other self in the parallel universe was using it, which was why I couldn't find the item. And when she was done, she put it back and thats when I found it."
"Oh Doris! What a load of bull!" cried Marjorie!
"There is no such thing as parallel Universe! I can't believe that you actually believe in such a cock and bull story."
I however enjoyed the harmless banter. Parallel universe indeed! Whatever next! For me its a a perfect theory one can use as an excuse for forgetfulness!
But I actually googled "parallel universe" and found some information about it! Imagine that! A whole following to the theory!
BBC has an interesting write up and more information about Parallel Universes.
The theory might seem absurd to some but very much believable for others!
Thanks for the anecdote Doris! Whenever I come across the theory of parallel universe again, I will think of you :)
Friday, March 18, 2005
1. What is the total amount of music files on your computer?
Don't know. I think its been mainly tranferred to the Ipod anyways. And we haven't been using the Ipod because we no longer commute.
2. The CD you last bought?
Last CD I bought was a complete set of Imam Sudais (sp) reading the Quran, bought in Mecca. We walked past this booth by the side of the road and heard the proprietor playing the CD. I was mesmerized by his reading. It was my way of bringing back memories of Masjidil Haram back with me. The way he reads the verses make them sound so relaxing and so surreal.
[Gosh I feel OLD! Thanks a lot Ijun! :p]
3. What was the last song you listened to before reading this message?
None. Haven't had the chance to listen to music much these days. Although sometimes I do play those classical chill out music or my treasured Brit Awards CD I bought before I left London.
4. Write down five songs that you often listen to or that mean a lot to you.
I don't often listen to songs in general so this is pretty hard. Gosh I am so square! Here are 5 random songs I think I like, although I don't listen to them too often, but its nice when I do hear them by chance.
i) Mad World by Gary Jules - I first heard this song in December 2003. Very haunting and memories of London comes flooding back, although this is our theme song here.
ii)Hey Ya - Outkast - this song reminded me of the time I spent with Syura, Ja and Ajis in Tokyo. Also heard it at a small Italian place in Kurashiki. Brings back memories.
iii) Hotel California by Eagles - our road trip song. Used to have the CD in our car when we drove from Singapore to KL. Will start singing the song when we get sleepy.
iv) Beautiful by Christina Aguilera - heard this song sang by an older lady in Marks and Spencer when I was in the queu at the cashier. Later that day I saw the video on MTV. Somehow the image of Aguilera and the older woman singing it just clicked. If this song can perk the lady up, then its a powerful song indeed.
v) Crawling up a Hill - Katie Melua - I wished I had the chance to watch Melua sing in London. Somehow the lyrics of this song appealed to me. Life is a struggle!
"Crawling Up A Hill"
Every morning (a)bout half past eight,
My Momma wakes me says,
"Don't be late",
Get to the office, tryin' to concentrate,
My life is just a slow train crawling up a hill.
So I stop one day to figure it out,
I'll quit my job without a shadow of a doubt,
To sing the blues that I know about,
My life is just a slow train crawling up a hill.
Minute after minute,
Second after second,
Hour after hour goes by,
Working for a rich girl,
Staying just a poor girl,
Never stop to wonder why.
So here I am in London town,
A better scene I'm gonna be around,
The kind of music that won't bring me down,
My life is just a slow train crawling up a hill.
Now I have to dig out the CDs and refresh my memory. Not sure where the CDs are.
5. Who are you going to pass this stick to (3 persons) and why.
This has got to be the best part of doing this. Why? Because I read their blogs, I think they are interesting, although I am not too sure if they'd be interested in putting this in their blog. But I will try anyways.
i) Leen aka ashburn
Ijun this excercise made me feel so errk deprived! Where can I download some music? Haven't found anything to replace suprnova :( Suddenly I miss HMV and Virgin Superstore! The last radio transmission I listen to is radio pencen Pok Ku! Gosh I am so sad!
I anticipate that things will get hectic for the next three weeks. Will be hosting some guests in the household. I need to get the place in order, need to stock up the fridge with proper food, wake up and prepare breakfast for them, and lunch as well.
The blogspot server is getting daft. I wish more people used haloscan now. I wanted to leave many comments on some blog entries but it took ages for the page to reload.
Went for a party last night. I was reluctant to go. Just wanted to crawl in bed and sleep till Subuh. But I dragged myself there. My neighbours and friends were all there.
K, upon introduction to my other half told him, "Why do you not let your wife out more often? We haven't seen her around for ages."
To which he replied, "Well because I like to keep her in chains."
K is a very funny woman. Her other half C used to work for the police in HK. They were telling us about their stories of their travels around the world.
They took a boat from Hong Kong to the Phillipines. On the way there, the water was very choppy and there was water everywhere in the cabin and they could not sleep. For three days, they sat rocking shoulder to shoulder with the other passengers. There was only one dry bed, which belonged to the Captain who had a very strong BO. So they had to fight, to sleep, with their nose clipped on the Captain's bed when he is on watch.
And there was T, celebrating St Patricks Day. Its funny how in this company, it doesn't matter where we're origionally form, people will ask us, "So where is home?"
T asked us where is home for us and it took me awhile to answer that question. We don't yet know where home will be. I left the country 11 years ago, and only came back for brief stays. Hubby has been working abroad for the same amount of time. We didn't get to stay at any location for more than a year since we've been married, except for London. So we call London home for now. Its the place where we set up our home. Where we've stayed the longest since we've been married.
But we always get the weird looks. Why London? Or eeiik! Or Mengadanya!
They don't have to say anything. I could tell from their eyes.
Most people don't really understand us, living this nomadic life. I was telling the other half, about my conversation with CN the other day, "Kenapa tak balik Malaysia?"
But she isn't the only one who asked us that.
But my initial reaction was, "Why?"
And I guess we do very well in cushioning ourselves with people who lead the same sort of lives we do. Amongst my neighbours and friends, we are not anomalies. We are normal. In fact some of my neighbours travel more than we do. Went to more adventurous places than we have. Travel more often than we could afford to. Some are well into their retirement age, with no children. And no worries about not having any children. Perhaps we seek people who are similar to us. People who see the world the same way we do. Its dangerous, it was unplanned but somehow it made us click together.
Home for us is where we could be happy together. I am a crab, I carry my shell, my home with me where ever I go. And in every country we've lived in, we managed to make it our home. I live for here and today, and the after life. What tomorrow will bring, Allah has predestined it for us.
Wednesday, March 16, 2005
And now he wants to return. But he had no money. No friends to help him. No place to stay.
He was a beaten man.
It took a lot of courage to come in. And even more courage to return home. Because there are some others who don't. Who lurk about in the dark corners of the glitzy city, too ashamed to return home with nothing. Too humiliated to admit defeat.
They contacted his family. But no one was willing to help. Or could help.
His sister was in Singapore, looking after their invalid mother.
"I no longer have a brother of that name! He took all of our savings to go to London. He said he was going to make some money. But we didn't hear anything from him until now."
"We have been struggling here ourselves. We get food from charity and our neighbours. And he expects us to help him? No he is not my brother anymore."
His wife and young children were in Malaysia.
"I am working three jobs to feed myself and my two young children. He went against our wishes. He abandoned us. He borrowed money from my siblings to go. He hasn't paid them back and now they are angry with me. How do you think we are going to send money to help him?"
SS and LJ sent him away. Told him to come back the following day while they try to work something out. LJ gave him £5. It wasn't much, but it was something. Money don't grow on trees in London.
I was very affected by the man. Dreams are important to me. And all these years living and moving from place to place, I knew how hard it was to follow one's dreams. I was disillusioned myself when I first arrived in London. The place was nothing like I imagined it to be.
London, despite its glamour and opportunities, can be a lonely and harsh place. Its a dog eat dog world out there. Everyone is scrounging for the same pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Until the rain stops and the rainbow disappears.
All that glitters is not gold.
And so I decided to give him my ticket home. A ticket, if I tried to get a refund, would be worth very little money. A ticket that meant less to me but would mean a whole world (or country in his case) of difference to him.
And so he was told that if there was a seat available on the flight the following evening, he would be flown home. Of course SS had to specifically tell him that the embassies do not give away free tickets home and it was a private arrangment between us.
I haven't heard from him since. I don't expect him to and I don't want anything in return. I believe that what comes around goes around, and I want to be sending out good deeds.
And in return, I have found even more kindness by mere strangers.
Pay it forward.
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
"Be careful," she said.
"Why? What happened?"
"There was a man who came to the door and said that he was surrendering himself. We have alerted the police."
Drama at last! But only while I was gone. *Sigh*
LJ came down to brief me about the incident. With the big bosses gone, she is the highest ranking officer in the office. She told me that they have alerted the special police that look after the embassies. We're on "high alert" so every little thing is making us jump slightly higher. LJ showed me where the panic button was, in case I needed to activate it if the refugee shows up again.
So I took over the control center. Nothing happened.
And he came. He buzzed the front door.
"I want to see the ambassador. I am Singaporean and I want to surrender myself."
He didn't look too dangerous to me. Through the camera I should see he was thin. His body language was that of a dejected man.
"Sir, I am not allowed to let you in. I have to seek approval from an officer. Please wait while I contact an officer."
He didn't fight or curse. He just nodded and stood by the door.
I called LJ and told her the man was back. LJ tried to contact SS. SS was still out for lunch. He'll have to wait until the male members of our staff came back. It was a quiet time at the office. Some were on leave. Others had offsite meetings and conferences to attend.
It was cold outside. He only had a denim jacket on. His shoulders was hunched.
SS came back from his lunch and LJ briefed him as to what happened. "Well lets talk to him then," said SS.
With reinforcements, they went to the door and talked to him. They checked his passport to make sure that he was legit, and finally let him in.
"Ask Raj to get him something warm to drink," SS instructed me.
I looked at the man from inside my bulletproof and shatterproof door. He looked embarrassed. He didn't want to come but he had to.
LJ and SS spent some time processing him. He told them that he was duped. He came to London with big hopes, hope to make some money and then return back to his family. But all his hopes has been shattered. One year after his struggle, out of money, he didn't know what to do.
Story was, he was told my his friend that one can make big money working in London. All he needed was to bring £5,000. He could buy a second hand car and run a private mini cab business. He could scrounge and save and whatever amount he could return with, it could be doubled due to the strong Pound Sterling.
Upon his arrival, his friend took £2,000 off him. To start off the bussiness his friend claimed. One month, two months, nothing happened. He was getting restless. His money was depleting and London can be a very expensive and unfriendly place.
He started doing some odd jobs. He washed dishes, clean tables, cut vegetables, did whatever he think he could while waiting for his mini cab venture to work out.
He harrassed his friend who told him that he needed to give them another £1,000 for some paperwork.
And the friend disappeared and didn't come back.
And he was at the end of his tether. He was lost. He didn't know what to do. All his money was gone. His dreams shattered.
Monday, March 14, 2005
And the memories came flooding back. I was in Secondary school then or perhaps in the first three months of Junior college. We were wearing the same blue pinafore. We possibly had lunch at the Scotts foodcourt.
Dear Anonymous, did you remember that day? It was raining and we didn't bring our umbrellas. I don't remember if IY was with us. But you had this card. This precious card of yours. I don't remember who gave it to you. But it was so precious to you that you wanted to protect it from the rain. You gingerly placed it in the front of your pinafore.
And we ran. We ran in the rain from Scotts to Tangs. We were not afraid of catching a cold, or a headache. We were young, carefree and invincible.
Perhaps somewhat foolish.
Remember those mornings we skipped school? Hung out with GESBs? I blame you for that! Thanks for inviting me along though. It was kind of you guys.
Remember that one morning we wanted to skip school but changed our minds? And we told Mrs Chan, our Physics teacher that we were late because your dad had a flat tyre? It was Physics practical that morning. We had to make sure that our stories matched and we discussed which tyre it was that needed to be changed. In case we were interrogated separately.
And we missed school on another day and the nurses were there doing some health check. And we changed the times on the card so we could leave school early to go to the clinic. Farah was so envious! Whatever happened to Farah.
We were plundering our youth. Our precious time before O Levels. We ought to be revising. Did we care? Imagine, we got by despite our playing truant. Imagine if we had really studied.
But I have no regrets.
I didn't fit in very well those days. Perhaps I still don't. I was the girl they always left out. But with you, I could hang out. You were like a book of P Ramlee movie quotes. And you knew exactly what quotes to use at the right time.
Do you remember those days?
I told you I think of you from time to time.
Saturday, March 12, 2005
Kyoto rewards kimono wearers
Japan's Kyoto city is offering free public transport and entry to tourist attractions for the next 11 days to anyone wearing a kimono.
On the screen, they flashed the scene from Kiyomizudera Temple. And I was transported back to Kyoto.
Were they real Geisha girls or Japanese girls dressed up as Geishas?
I went to Kiyomizudera with this other girl I met at the hostel. We were sharing the same room and we were both travelling alone. We both didn't have set plans so getting round together was convenient. I have since forgotten her name but I do remember that she was from Calgary, Canada. How and why she was there, is another story which I hopefully will be able to tell on another entry.
The road up to Kiyomizudera was lined with shops on both sides selling traditional Japanese craft and some Japanese fare. We told ourselves that we would just browse through the shops first, not buy anything, check out the views and then return to the shops to buy our souvenirs. Hopefully in that order.
The serenity of the temple was amazing. I enjoyed the silence. The serenity of Kyoto is a far cry from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo. The view was simply breathtaking and I was cursing at myself for choosing to carry my mini casio exilim and not the more bulky SLR camera. The limitation of my camera was way too obvious there as I could not capture the breathtaking beauty of the place.
After meandering through the temple, we headed back to the shops. And lo and behold I caught sight of two girls wearing their traditional kimono and dressed up like geisha. I was excited! I was walking round the Gion district the night before, hoping to catch sight of them but somehow I was unlucky. But there they were, willing to pose with both tourists and locals for pictures. I was enthralled by their colourful kimonoes, their traditional make up, and their willingness to pose for photgraphs. My visit to Kyoto was complete! I met two Geisha girls and posed pictures with them! I wished I could speak Japanese so I could interview them, but alas, they were in a hurry to move on.
On the way down, I bought myself several fans and a Japanese neck bolster. I still keep my Kyoto treasures in my bottom drawer. The fan is used on hot days and the neck bolster, I carry it with me whenever I travel. It was my way of making an alien hotel room my place, just with my backpacker's sheets and my little blue Japanese neck roll.
I hope to go back to Kyoto sometime soon. And I hope with the added reward for kimono wearers, I would get to see more kimono clad ladies in Kyoto.
I don't know what it is about Japan and things Japanese that appeal to me. I think I left bits of my heart in Kyoto.
One day Kyoto, I shall return, I shall delve into your bosom and uncover all your treasures. I had a tiny taste and I want to come back for more.
Tonight, I will sleep on my blue neck bolster and dream of you.
Friday, March 11, 2005
Is It Forbidden for Women to Wear Jeans?
Lubna Hussain, firstname.lastname@example.org
I don’t think I am wrong in assuming that most women around the world wear trousers. I personally have never found anything wrong with this form of attire and I know that it is considered decent and formal to don a pair of slacks in lieu of a skirt. We grew up in a denim culture where lounging around in a pair of jeans was symbolic of relaxation. Jeans were weekend clothes, informal, comfortable and practical. They were not worn to work, like many places in the States, but men and women alike sported a pair whilst engaged in casual activities. I know for certain that trousers and jeans are not worn by women in order to try and emulate men. I can’t even think of a single instant when I had been led to believe that any female friend/acquaintance/colleague of mine has turned up in a pair of pants as a form of rebellion or as an attempt at role reversal.
I was standing outside a hospital one day waiting for my driver when I heard someone to the rear of me shouting “Haraam! Haraam! Haraam!” I wondered lackadaisically as to what the commotion was about, but did not condescend to turn around and gape at something that was not a matter of personal concern. Another voice joined in and this duet appeared to be getting closer. In actual fact so close that it seemed for all intents and purposes that the pair was standing right behind me. This time I could not resist and succumbed to the temptation of looking back and being turned to stone in the process, without the slightest idea that I was the one being shouted at.
The elder of the two individuals had a walking stick and began poking the bottom of my abaya with it. I stood astonished at his audacity. “Haraam! Haraam!” he continued to chant venomously and wafted his wand in an imaginary circle around the spot where I stood petrified.
I was so perplexed and offended that I glared at him defiantly and shouted back, “What on earth are you talking about? What ‘Haraam! Haraam!’?”
He took this as an invitation to deliver his sermon.
“You,” he said pointing his finger accusingly, “are dressed up as a man!”
“A man?” I marveled aloud.
“Yes! It is haraam for a woman to be wearing trousers. The curse of Allah will be upon you,” he spat out as his young companion looked upon me with disgust.
Irrespective of the fact that I knew full well that I should ignore his edict, I felt quite shaken up by the whole incident. No matter how hard I tried to reconcile myself to the absurdity of his illogical ranting, I could not help but feel perturbed by it. It is wholly peculiar that shops here stock a wide variety of what I would deem immodest and distasteful clothing. Some of the apparel I have seen brazenly displayed in shop windows is nothing short of vulgar and crude. I have always been fully covered and choose clothes that reflect inherent values of modesty and decency. And yet it seems that wearing a pair of trousers is more offensive than sporting one of the aforementioned outfits as long as it is perceived as being “feminine”! I arrived at the conclusion that my own conscience was a far better judge of what was and was not acceptable as far as my dress was concerned.
During Ramadan, I frequented the mosque daily and, one evening, was accosted by a fellow worshipper who stood in front of me blocking my exit after the prayer had been concluded.
“May God bless you my dear sister,” she began. I knew from her body language that she was about to admonish me for some perceived deficiency in my prayer or the fact that I had not conformed to one of the commonplace directives. I anxiously anticipated being apprised of what stricture exactly it was that I had broken.
“You know that God has created you in the form of a woman,” she continued with maternal tenderness, “so it is a shame that you should want to look and behave like a man.”
I was once again astounded by her comment.
“What makes you think I am behaving like a man?” I retorted having realized that in this society offense is the best form of defense.
She pointed at my pants and stated the obvious, “Look at what you are wearing! If you behaved like a woman, you would be wearing a dress.”
By this time I was thoroughly exasperated, so I decided to apply some logic of my own to counter her argument.
“Well,” I conceded matter of factly, “the day men here stop wearing dresses, I will start!”
Wednesday, March 09, 2005
But really its a different tune altogether over here. Women are not harassed. Women are allowed to drive. They smile. There are sales girls. And non one was honking when I was walking alone! And no one was staring when I ate alone in the foodcourt. And there are changing rooms where I can try my clothes and decide if I want to buy them or not. There is no mad rush to make my selection before the shops are closed for prayers. And music is played in the Malls and restaurants. And no sales man tried to pick me up or ask where I come from or where I worked. The magazines I bought are not tainted by black markers on women's clevage. And the package boxes with women on them are not mutilated.
I know for most of you out there, you find my fascination above weird. And most of you ladies took those liberties for granted. But I have been deprived from these liberties!
The air of freedom is keeping me in a state of sustained elation! Its not drugs or alcohol. Just people smilling, and me feeling what normal life is like. Where I can sit anywhere I like in a restaurant. Wear red lipstick if I feel inclined and walk and talk with my husband's colleagues without fear that we may be ambushed by the religious police.
And we get to go movie marathons! The ticket price is actually somewhat steep. At RM25 a shot, the cinema is actually rather pricey. But we haven't watched a movie in a cinema since we were last in London, so here we are, running movie marathons. Yesterday, we managed to watch three movies; Ray, Final Cut and The Blade 3. Today we managed to squeeze 2 more; Lemony Snickett's A series of Unfortunate events and Meet the Fockers. And tomorrow we will be watching at least one more. Two if time permits.
Even surfing the internet is a different experience. For whatever reason, the local ISP back home disallowed images from photobucket, so I was unable to see KakTeh's bouquet of flowers. But I am able to see it today.
But alas, my time both in the internet cafe and in this lovely island is numbered. Will try to blog more when I get home.
Have a good weekend everyone.
Sunday, March 06, 2005
So many things have happened and so many issues I wanted to blog about but I just haven't had the time!
A very good friend whom I had lost touch with, managed to get in touch with me via this blog. I am delighted that hopefully we'll get to keep in touch from now on.
And I will get to use my passport again! To cross the border to Bahrain, where we can watch movies, where I can sit anywhere I like and not behind frosted doors, and where I don't have to wear an abaya! But funnily enough, not wearing an abaya makes me feel weird!
Because the abaya meant I can wear my jammies under it or wear a transparent tight T and nobody will see it or know! So not wearing an abaya means I have to dress decently again and I have to find those blouses that are deep inside my cupboard, iron the long sleeve shirts that I haven't worn for awhile and try to colour coordinate the tops with the bottoms. Sigh! I have forgotten how to dress up when I go out!
This trip is like a devaju trip for me. As I was re-reading my blog I realized that I flew to Bahrain from Heathrow all by myself around the same time last year. It was difficult being separared from my love but he was too kind to me. He sent me to Japan to backpack and as soon as I came back, he asked me to fly to Bahrain to meet up with him. His resident visa was taking ages to process and the separation was just getting too much for us. Thank god for the internet and phone cards. Otherwise our phonebills would have been colossal. Bahrain was our choice for rendezvous as I didn't need a visa to visit and I managed to get cheap tickets via Qatar air.
I also bought my first abaya at the Manama souk as my preparation to come here.
My first glimpse of the desert was in Qatar airport where I had to stop for a connecting flight. How strange it was to see so much sand and no grass! And I flew in from cold, grey England. The bright sunny days in the Middle East was a huge change.
Its been a year since I took that maiden flight and I have been back to Bahrain a few times afterwards. But I still remember how strange it felt for me. There I was wearing my jeans and T shirt. But the stares I got was surprising for me. I thought I didn't wear anything too revealing. Just my hipster Guess Jeans and a Marks and Spencer T shirt. Nothing too spectacular or sexy, no one would have blinked if I wore the same clothes in London. No one would even look. But there in Bahrain, I saw girls nudging at each other when they saw what I was wearing. And some of the men! I noticed their eyes as they walked past me. It was very uncomfortable.
I also remember after watching a movie at a Mall, we got disoriented when we went to the carpark. But the caretaker pointed to the direction where our car was parked. I did notice that he was staring at us when we parked our car earlier. Are we the only Orientals in Bahrain?
And so off I go to Bahrain again. You guys have a good week!
Saturday, March 05, 2005
If you are who I think you are, thanks for dropping a note on my blog. How have you been? Has life been treating you allright? Its been a while. Too long in fact.
And how old is your son now? Time sure does fly.
I know I am partly at fault. I am terrible at keeping in touch. I move around too much, and I seldom return.
I wonder which clothes did he see. I don't know where my pictures are. Possibly collecting mold and dust back in my apartment. They haven't been looked through for ages. In fact I haven't seen my apartment in ages.
Glad to know that you have been searching for me for years. I do think of you occasionally.
So where are you now? Where have you been? Hope things have been good for you. I did meet up with a couple of our friends when I was last back in town. They were OK but life has its own way of testing us, of making us mature, of teaching us life's little lessons.
If you come back here again and wish to contact me, my email is email@example.com. It would be lovely to hear from you.
If you don't its allright, I won't take heart. And I wish you well. I hope you will always have good health, happiness and peace of mind. Insyallah.
The internet is amazing. And if you are who I think you are (clues are sometimes deceiving) then this is truly magical.
Friday, March 04, 2005
In fact, even though we consider him as our religious teacher, he never lectures us on how we should lead our lifestyle or what he thinks we should and should not do. He doesn't judge us, but is always wiling to help when we needed help. He is an amicable person. And because he is all that his words carry a lot of resonance and he is very much respected by those who know him.
One afternoon, after performing his afternoon prayers, he was approached by a young man. This man is a student of Medina University, being an ustaz in training he was very eager to impart his newfound knowledge. For some reason he singled out Ustaz K as the person whom he would impart his knowledge to that day. The conversation went something like this:
Student: Asal dari mana ni.
K: Asal dari jawi.
Student: Datang buat Haji ke?
Student: Dah tau apa rukun-rukun Haji?
Ustaz K being the humble and unassuming person that he is, did not tell The Student that this was his 20th time performing the Hajj. He merely smiled and listened attentively. He was to meet one of his friends there and so he didn't mind listening to The Student talk.
Shortly afterwards, Ustaz K's friend showed up. W who is also a student and lives in the same city as Ustaz K also knew The Student, who at that time was "teaching" Ustaz K. After greeting them with the normal pleasantaries and listerning to the excerpt of The Student's speech, he could not contain himself any longer.
W: Anta tau ke dengan siapa anta sedang berbual ni?
Student: Jemaah haji dari Jawi.
W: Anta pernah tak dengar nama Ustaz K, yang sedang buat PHD?
Student: Pernah, tapi tak pernah jumpa lagi. Insyallah kalau ada rezeki dapat ana jumpa.
W: Ini lah orangnya.
And the student's face went all white. There he was, trying to teach the basics to the man who was obviously more qualified and more experienced than he is. He apologized profusely, but nothing could hide his embarassment.
But Ustaz K, being the kind, modest and humble soul that he was, quickly put the student at ease. He commended the student on his initiative and wished him luck in his endeavour.
Every now and again, one would encounter with people who think that they know more than you and is all too eager to teach you something new.
From that I often have to remind myself never to judge a book by its cover. I should not be too enthusiatic in imparting the little knowledge that I have but strive to learn more rather than impress upon others my opinion of what they should or should not do.
Neither should I chide people, especially people whom I hardly know. Never assume anything because when I assume, I might make an ass out of me.
Thursday, March 03, 2005
And yes, some days I do miss London. Its funny because some friends often ask me,
"Asyik balik London je bile nak balik Malaysia pula?"
And I don't know what to say. Because most times, I do feel more inclined to return to London, the city where I set up my home. There is a tiny space in that busy city where I call home, where we worked very hard to make the place comfortable. We saved every penny we could to get a down payment for it. I forgo my dream for postgraduate school as my contribution to that tiny space. And yes I do miss it.
But recently I am beginning to feel that I am forming my roots here. Just the though of moving makes me feel a little tired. I have made some friends. Started learning some new things and I am getting more comfortable to my environment. The little things don't bother me as much.
Of course there is that eternal question. "When will you return for good?"
Our standard answer would be, "Bila hutang semua sudah habis dibayar."
When all our debts are paid. Does that mean, when we retire?
I have known and met some veteran expats, who planned to return to Malaysia when they retire. Somehow they could not readjust back to life in Malaysia. Somehow they have changed and they could not cope with the changes in Malaysia as well. They see Malaysia as the idyllic place they grew up in and when they returned found Malaysia not to be the same place they left.
And as for Singapore, somehow that island does have even less attraction for me. Yes I have friends and family there. But other than that, I don't really have very much. Perhaps because Singapore has changed a lot, and everytime I returned it looked different. Even the schools where I used to study no longer look the same. The neighbourhood where I grew up don't look the same. The old memories are gone, erased, and changed with something new. Its progress, I understand that. But it just means that the Singapore now bears little resemblance to the Singapore I knew. And there are new and exciting places. But these are unfamiliar to me.
Where do we go from here?
I leave it up to Allah. If we stay, we stay. If we move on, I will move on. If we get to return, we will. Eventually. Insyallah.
The only constant in my life is change. Only a year ago, I was in Japan around this time. Backpacking. Staying in youth hostels. Walking alone on the streets of Kyoto. Exploring the night life in Tokyo. I miss that life, but I do enjoy my life now.
And what will tomorrow bring?
I hope tomorrow will bring me happiness, joy, peace of mind and good health.
Tuesday, March 01, 2005
Thank you so much for your kind words. Just that I am terribly busy this week and can't seem to post anything nice.